MMA Fighter Overcomes Severe Addiction, Wins First UFC Match
Jared Gordon, during his UFC debut on Saturday night, defeated Michael Quinones via TKO in the second round. While the fight and victory were certainly impressive, they paled in comparison to the battle that Gordon has been waging for years.
Gordon, 28, has been battling a crippling addiction to pain medication and other opiates for years. He is lucky to be alive, let alone celebrating his first victory on mixed martial arts’ largest stage. His years of active addiction have brought him to some dark places, including 3 overdoses, 10 stints in drug rehabilitation centers, psychiatric hospitals, and multiple near-death experiences.
While Saturday was Gordon’s debut in the UFC, he has been striving to reach the pinnacle of the world of mixed martial arts fighting since he was in high school. While many UFC fighters’ journeys begin in their childhood, Gordon’s has contained a few more detours than most.
He began experimenting with drugs in high school and when an injury early in his career led him to discover prescription pain medication for the first time, he found himself hooked almost immediately. This began many years of addiction, which progressed to the point of multiple overdoses, the death of close friends and a very serious arrest.
During those tumultuous years of addiction, Gordon would manage to go to rehab and clean himself up for long enough to continue his fighting career but he was never able to completely turn the corner on his addiction and slay his demons both inside, and outside of the octagon.
It wasn’t until he suffered a loss to Jeff Lentz in 2015, which led to a broken orbital bone and a relapse on opiates, did he truly realize that he was teetering on the edge of losing not only his dream but his life. After that relapse, he suffered his third his third overdose, which served as his most recent wake-up call and has allowed him to finally achieve his lifelong dream of fighting and winning in the UFC.
An Uncommon Outcome for a Very Common Story
While Gordon’s story of triumph in the octagon, and more impressively over addiction, serves as a feel-good story to many, it needs to be said that the origins of his story are all too common. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, currently, there are around 12.5 million people in the country who abuse opiates such as heroin and prescription pain medication.
Just like Gordon, a vast majority of those people are introduced to these drugs not by a drug dealer on the street corner in the dilapidated part of town, but instead by their doctor who is prescribing them an opiate for a legitimate medical concern. Being exposed to these extremely powerful, and potentially addictive, drugs put many people in situations where they find themselves helplessly addicted.
Just like the number of people who are becoming addicted to opiates, a number of opiate prescriptions in this country is also skyrocketing which is further compounding the problem. While not everyone who is prescribed opiates from their doctor is going to become addicted, a certain percentage of people who are susceptible to addiction will. The more prescriptions that are written, the more people that are going to find themselves addicted to opiates.
Often times, becoming addicted to pain medication is just the beginning. As with Gordon’s story, many people who start their addiction with opiate painkillers, which they were prescribed by their doctor, spiral out of control and eventually begin using other illicit drugs like heroin because they are typically easier to get, stronger, and often times considerably cheaper.
Addiction is referred to as a progressive disease, which means that it tends to get more severe as time goes on. Those who initially find themselves taking one or two more pills than their prescription calls for can rather quickly progress to using dangerous amounts of heroin every day and committing crimes in order to pay for their habit.
The sad fact here is that while many people have stories which begin as Gordon’s did, getting a prescription for opiate painkillers from their doctor. Very few have outcomes even remotely as happy or uplifting as his. Well over 50,000 people in America died from opiate overdoses in 2016, which is a record high and almost 4 times as many as in 1999.
Many people struggling with opiate addiction either eventually die from an overdose or spend years, sometimes decades, of their life battling their disease hopping from one jail or drug rehabilitation facility to another without ever truly, or adequately, confronting and treating their deadly condition.
Lack of Treatment Options Make Change Difficult
While Gordon had to attend 10 drug rehabilitation programs before he reached the point where he was able to make significant headway with overcoming his addiction, there are many who have trouble finding access to quality substance abuse treatment at all.
With the drastically increasing number of American’s who are becoming addicted to not only opiates, but all forms of drugs and alcohol, the already inadequate number of treatment facilities and qualified professionals available to help stem the tide of addiction is only becoming more and more apparent.
Helping the millions of Americans who are currently struggling with drug addiction is going to require a concerted effort from multiple aspects of our society if we truly want to slow down the epidemic which is currently sweeping the nation. Better and more easily available treatment options for the treatment of substance abuse is an absolute must if we want to reduce the number of fatal overdoses that we experience every day across the country.
If this becomes a reality, then perhaps Gordon’s story will no longer be so rare. Until then, triumphs like his will continue to be the exception to the harsh reality that our society is struggling with the festering wound of a severe opioid epidemic which shows no signs of letting up.