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Letter to the Editor: Addiction takes toll on entire family

To the Times:

The endless succession of vivid, harrowing news accounts of people struggling with opioid addiction brings the scale of the crisis into focus as it grips our region and the nation. Caring families can provide a critical complement to health care services, but, as I write this from personal experience, families need support as well.

Growing up, my sister struggled with substance abuse, eventually devolving into heroin addiction, a descent of increasing and common frequency today. She was 11 years my senior, so her addiction was a constant presence through my formative years. She eventually disappeared, bringing no closure.

I learned long ago that addiction is a family disease. Though the support from a family can play a major role in successful recovery, addicts also unleash real and adverse impacts on their parents and siblings. Conditions such as codependency can have ripple effects that extend far beyond the addict’s crisis. As occurred in my own family, repercussions from a family member’s codependence can include denial of the severity of the disorder, an increasingly fractured home life, sometimes paralyzing stress, and even insolvency.

Government brings essential resources both to target the root causes of this epidemic and to ensure that critical services, such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, are available to addicts and their families. The Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion make this possible for millions of Americans, and for thousands of good people in our own community caught in tragic circumstances. These services are now available to those struggling in the wake of a family member’s addiction, because the ACA requires that all insurers cover treatment for mental health as an essential health benefit.

If Republicans in Congress succeed in cutting Medicaid and repealing the Affordable Care Act, funding for treatment for those suffering from opioid addiction along with related support for family members will be slashed and critical support services will be at risk. The consequence of such a cut would be to strip coverage from nearly three million Americans struggling with substance abuse, including over 220,000 struggling with opioid addiction, and their family members. Unfortunately, Rep. Pat Meehan has voted over 60 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement.

We must recommit ourselves to protect these critical programs and to ensure they are available to aid in recovery, and to support families battling this crisis.


Dan Muroff is a Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional District, where he lives with his wife Melissa in Flourtown, Montgomery County. He is a native of Havertown and a former president of CeasefirePA and Conservation Voters of Pa.

This Letter to the Editor originally apppeared in the Delaware County Daily Times