Jessica Nickel

Jessica Hulsey Nickel, founder of Addiction Policy Forum, recalls early inspiration

Counselors often encourage people to recall an early childhood interest when helping them define their career path. For Jessica Hulsey Nickel, she found her calling at the age of five.

Speaking with NPR, she recalled her presentation in kindergarten.

“I think my first advocacy day when it comes to addiction was in kindergarten. I was in Mrs. Dean’s kindergarten class. And for my first show and tell, I came to school wanting to talk about heroin and that you shouldn’t use it and if your parents started to, these are some things you should be thinking about. And Mrs. Dean, in a very lovely way, helped me edit some of the content of my first talk to talk about good medicines and bad medicines. And you shouldn’t take a medicine unless your parent or a doctor gives it to you. So…you know, I found my calling when I was 5 years old. And I’ve been pretty focused on it ever since.”

Growing up with both parents addicted to heroin and eventually becoming an orphan due to their overdosing gave Nickels a powerful perspective on the mechanisms of addiction.

“About five years ago, we started working on this idea. We have to avoid this impulse to just focus on opioids or just focus on methamphetamines or just focus on heroin – whatever that might be – because the drugs change, but the addiction and the underlying medical condition doesn’t. And we also need to steer clear of this impulse we have to focus on only one solution. It’s not just prevention or just treatment or just overdose reversal or just law enforcement that’s going to fix this problem. It is complicated and needs a comprehensive response.”

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To read more about Jessica Nickel’s work educating about addiction, please visit NPR.org.

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