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Fort Collins music fest fights opioid use stigma

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Collegian | Trin Bonner

On Saturday, Sept. 9, The Lyric held the Fight the Stigma Music Festival to support the cause to end drug overdose. Many musicians, bands, advocates and Fort Collins community members attended. 

Marty Rein, therapist and owner of Rein Therapeutic Counseling & Consulting, attended the festival alongside many other esteemed health professionals.

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“We were all concerned that, as a result of the recent COVID crisis, mental health and substance use conditions had escalated significantly — depression, anxiety, relapses, escalated drinking and (suicide),” Rein said. “Having worked in the substance use and mental health fields for some time, we felt it necessary to create a local community action to fight the stigma of substance use disorders and mental health disorders.”

West Side Joe & The Men of Soul played their well-known hit “Keep Climbin’,” which is about continuing life even when it gets hard.

“I actively fight the stigma by being honest with my own struggles,” said Joe Schicke, a guitarist and vocalist for West Side Joe & The Men of Soul. “I am beyond grateful to be sober, and I know that I can keep that up by continuing to be honest about my experience and willing to be there to talk to folks who might be having troubles currently.”

Soviet Mothers was another band that attended the festival.

“I was happy to be part of something that could help others who might be fighting their own personal battles every day and feeling alone and isolated,” said Paul Rogers, a founding member of Soviet Mothers. “Getting to participate was a great way to show others that it’s OK to have problems and it’s OK to reach out to others when you need help.”

Many peer-reviewed studies have shown that being open and honest with loved ones about addiction can lead to higher sobriety rates. 

We wanted to address why it is difficult for people to ask for help when they are in distress,” Rein said. “This is very pervasive in addiction and mental health issues. We wanted to help people to know that it was OK to not feel OK and that it was OK to ask for help. We also wanted to create awareness for the stigma of these issues. What we are told to believe about them (is) a false barrier to getting the help one needs, whether they themselves are struggling or if someone they care about is struggling.”

“Opioid use disorder is associated with feelings of social isolation … and, at the community level, lower social capital,” said Nina Christie, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of New Mexico.

“For someone who is fighting their addiction, it is important to share what is going on with a health professional (or) someone you trust or to seek out other people who are working through the same issues successfully,” Rein said. “It’s a tall order to bring issues like this to light for many reasons related to the stigma of what these issues mean in society. We may fear judgment from others, or we may be afraid of what our lives will look like without the substances present. If you are struggling, the most important thing is to bring it to light where you can receive support, compassion and guidance through it.”

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Overdose is the leading cause of death for those ages 18-45 years in America today. Currently, in the state of Colorado, there is an overdose every 4 hours, 45 minutes and 9 seconds. 

To combat these numbers, Colorado State University has begun multiple initiatives. CSU partnered with SAFE Project in order to begin said initiatives with the CSU Health Network. Not only does the CSU Health Center offer free fentanyl testing strips, naloxone and training, but it also offers medication-assisted treatment using buprenorphine for opioid usage. Over 200 pharmacies in Colorado carry naloxone, and many do so at no cost. 

For clarification purposes, Narcan and naloxone are the same drug; Narcan is the most commonly used brand name, and naloxone is the generic name.

According to the National Institute of Health, “naloxone works to reverse opioid overdose in the body for only 30-90 minutes.” However, many opioids can stay in the body’s system for much longer than that, so it is essential that the person is still brought to the hospital in case of long-term effects of an overdose.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved two versions of naloxone: an injection and a prepackaged nasal spray.

There are programs to help anyone struggling with addiction and their loved ones. The Never Use Alone website has a 24/7 crisis hotline for those struggling with addiction. Access Point Colorado has a syringe access program in Fort Collins that offers HIV testing, food bank access, housing opportunities, transportation programs and emergency financial assistance.

Reach Alexander Wilson at science@collegian.com or on Twitter @csucollegian.

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About the Contributor
Trin Bonner
Trin Bonner, Illustration Director
Trin Bonner is the illustration director for The Collegian newspaper. This will be her third year in this position, and she loves being a part of the creative and amazing design team at The Collegian. As the illustration director, Bonner provides creative insight and ideas that bring the newspaper the best graphics and illustrations possible. She loves working with artists to develop fun and unique illustrations every week for the readers. Bonner is a fourth-year at Colorado State University studying electronic arts. She loves illustrating and comic making and has recently found enjoyment in experimental video, pottery and graphic design. Outside of illustration and electronic art, Bonner spends her free time crocheting and bead making. She is usually working on a blanket or making jewelry when she is not drawing, illustrating or brainstorming.

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