Name: Meghan Elizabeth Haefs
From: Woodbury, Minnesota
Addiction – A National Crisis
Addiction – A National Issue
By Meghan Haefs
Every day I work with adults who have mental disabilities, and many of them also have a history of drug or alcohol abuse. Everyday my co-workers and I have to take measures to not only make sure that things in our center are under lock and key (like hand sanitizer) so that they cannot be consumed by our clients. We need to make sure job sites we work at are safe, and that there is nothing that our clients can get ahold of to get a high. They (our clients) will drink bleach, inhale markers, steal from us and job sites so they can support their habit. There is nothing off limits for them and we have to be a step ahead at all times.
Up until a few years ago I had no idea just how bad the drug abuse situation was in this country, and I think many still do not realize it. In 1982 President Ronald Reagan declared a war on drugs, and that is when I think the government started to pay attention to the drug epidemic, but I believe the public may still have been in denial of just how bad things where and as a result they have gotten worse.
As a nation we are starting to wake up and realize just how out of hand it has gotten. We are starting to see the people who are effect by addiction, and it is not the one we use to envision. It is not some stranger on a street, it is our neighbor, our parents, our children, our friends. There also was this mentality that the only person hurt by someone’s decision to use drugs was the person using. We are not starting to realize that is not the case. Everyone suffers. Families are ripped apart, children are put into foster care, put in the middle of a custody battle or worse yet are living in an unsafe environment. Marriages and relationships are destroyed, trust is lost. As a society we are faced with financial burdens as we have many drug offenders who are behind bars.
How do we fix this crisis? Fist we cannot be in denial anymore. We need to look at the criminal justice system and how we handle non-violent drug offenders. Locking them up is not the answer, and if anything could make problem even worse. Locking them up does not help or fix the issue, there needs to be more rehabilitation services available. We need programs in place for the abuser/addict and for family members as well. There needs to be supports in place for them and their family when they complete rehab. With the clients I work with we have a team for each one of them. There is a social worker, probation/parole officer, employment specialist, family members and the group home manger who are in constant contact with each other and are there to support each person’s needs. There needs to be a bigger push by law enforcement (policing, prosecuting) to target the seller/distributor and not going the person using.
This is not an issue that is just going to go away. We cannot ignore it any longer.