Name: Brent Houtchens
From: Visalia, CA
Resources, Education, and Empathy
Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign
Resources, Education, and Empathy
“We spill the same blood in the same mud” is an expression often used in the military that expresses that we’re all in this together, that we all face life’s adversities, and that nobody has to face it alone. We all handle these adversities differently. Some soldiers coming home from war turn to alcohol and substance abuse because it is their way to self-medicate, their way to escape the realities that haunt them. Whether that be PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, or sleep disorders, people can turn to drugs to help cope. With drug use comes tolerance issues, requiring more of the same drug or a higher dosage of that drug to have the same effect that it did in the beginning. Or even worse, turn to heavier drugs. Drugs can take a toll on the human mind and the human body causing the underlying symptoms that initially drove them to substance abuse to worsen. It’s like putting a band-aid on a situation that requires stitches. The problem doesn’t get solved, only exacerbated.
Available resources are a big step in offering that lifeline to people struggling with addiction. Information just might not be getting to the right people. Users may feel lost, abandoned, neglected, or ignored with nobody to turn to and nowhere to go. There is rehabilitation for the addiction, yes. But it goes deeper. There’s often emotional or physical abuse or trauma in the user’s past. And like the soldier, they are coping with what torments them the best they know how. But what if they were introduced to another way? Cognitive behavior therapy, getting set up with a mental health professional, even being prescribed psychiatric drugs to help with dopamine and serotonin. And I understand the trepidation of not wanting to rely on medication to get better. As a person who has dealt with some psychiatric disorders in the past, I initially was too stubborn to ask for help. I had a sense of pride and convinced myself that I could do everything on my own. Then I came to the conclusion, what’s the alternative to not asking for help? Continuing to feel awful? That’s not an option. I realized that we are humans. Machines need maintenance, even computers can run slow from time to time.
We as a society need to rid the notion that all drug users are criminals. I will admit that illegal manufacturing, smuggling, and drug dealing need to be dealt with more heavily in the criminal justice system, but most users are victims that arrived there in many different ways and all need help and we could have a little more empathy. Some users started out being prescribed painkillers for a medical condition they had or surgery they had, and because of the addictive properties of opioids, became addicted and sought out heavier drugs on the street when their prescriptions ran out or they felt that their current medication just wasn’t working anymore. And then down the hole they go. Some people seek to recreationally experiment with drugs but quickly fall into addiction. The common denominator is that these people need help. I personally have never tried drugs, but I have been tempted and I have seen firsthand what it has done to people I care about. The drug completely takes over their life. They no longer think rationally, they are willing to lie, cheat, steal, and cut corners to obtain the drug. They withdraw, isolate, and become a former shell of themselves. The further down the hole they are in addiction, the harder it is to get them out without rehabilitation and sometimes even divine intervention. So, I mentioned available resources, but I also believe in educating the public on drugs and how they affect the mind and body. And then that leaves us. Being able to recognize the warning signs of addiction and intervene if it’s our friend, neighbor, or loved one and have the courage to ask for help if it is us who are struggling. Together, we can overcome the addiction crisis.