The complicating factor — and why policies don’t work when they chase the eradication of one drug, only to focus on eradicating the next popular drug of choice for “ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking” — is that many people use opioids and alcohol and cigarettes. And if they receive no help to get at why they’re using legal or illegal substances, they will move on to another, more easily accessible drug when the current drug they’re using becomes more difficult to find.
“It has been abundantly clear to me and reinforced over a 40-year career,” continues Sumrok, “that patients desire, and respond better to, sensitive and informed care. From the Navajo Nation to Appalachia to Memphis and from the mountains of Honduras to the jungles of Amazonia, people regard respect as the sine qua non of quality care.”
Identifying barriers to care, which include basics such as how people can find good care easily (most of Sumrok’s patients find out about him through word of mouth), being wary of the treatment because it isn’t explained to them, or — what Sumrok hears a lot — being judged or talked down to instead of given understanding and respect.
“In Shelby County, people complain about barriers to care, which many people think is because of economics,” she says. “But it may not be just economics that is keeping people from accessing treatment; it may be more about being judged, and not knowing what the treatment looks like.”