Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visits Dayton to talk opioid epidemic

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Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg visits Dayton to talk opioid epidemic

One of the most powerful men in the world was in Dayton to talk to local people about an issue devastating Dayton families. 

Dayton has been hit hard by the heroin crisis. 

Zuckerberg said in January that he was challenging himself to visit people in all 50 states.

He posted the following to his official  Facebook page about his Dayton stop:  

I just sat down with people recovering from opioid addiction and people helping them get treatment in Dayton, Ohio.

The opioid epidemic is one of the worst public health crises we've faced. More people die from it today than died from AIDS at its peak, or that die from car accidents and gun violence. The rate is still growing quickly.

The pull from opioids is incredibly powerful. A man I met said that when he saw someone overdose, his first thought was who that person's dealer was so he could get better stuff. Another woman who was forced to give up her kids said it wasn't because she didn't love them. She just needed the feeling from getting high more.

Everyone in Dayton is affected by this. One woman told me her daughter, who is a recovering heroin addict, got promoted to hostess at the restaurant where she works because the last hostess overdosed in the bathroom. Another woman whose husband is a police officer said her family hears overdose calls coming over the radio every night. The Dayton police department once responded to 29 overdose calls in a single day. She's worried it's all going to seem normal to her young daughter.

Treating an epidemic like this is complicated and the people I met say it's years from even peaking. But they also came back to the importance of connection and relationships.

A big part of recovery is surrounding yourself with people who are a positive influence and will help you avoid situations where you might relapse. You can't get dragged back down. One woman told me she'll talk someone down who is about to use, but she won't go out to a drug house to find them. She has to look out for herself first.

Purpose is also really important. One man who has been in recovery for seven years told me, "Most addicts have destroyed personal relationships, stolen from their family members, sold their cars for drugs, and they have to rebuild all of that. We have to help them develop a sense that they have a goal in life, and we have to do it one addict at a time."

The people I met also talked about how important it is to reduce the stigma that comes from being a recovering addict. One woman who has been clean for a year told me, "If we're in active addiction it doesn't mean we're not human. Even if we're not living our potential at this moment we have a chance to do something with this life." Another told me, "It's important that addicts don't end up as 'those people.' It's not 'those people,' it's your neighbor, and you need to be there to support them."

This touches everyone. People I work closely with have had family members and high school friends die of overdoses. Ohio and communities all across the country have a long road ahead, but as someone told me at the end, "I'm hopeful because we're talking about it." Me too.

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