Drug Rehab 2021 Round 1 – It Takes a Contry

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It Takes a Contry

Alcohol and drug abuse has an estimated $246 billion impact on the US economy[1]. Costs include things like unemployment rates, healthcare costs, welfare, and child neglect and abuse. The impact to the addict and their family is not only monetary but physical and mental as well. I know my mother still has lingering emotional trauma from my own struggle with addiction that ended nearly a decade ago; anytime I tell her “I’m sick” she needs immediate clarification that it is a cold and not drug withdrawal.

I think the addiction crisis we face in America stems from multiple areas. America leans toward putting addicts in jail, punishing them and making criminals out of them. This pushes so many people down a dark path that leads to worse addiction, poorer behavior and increased criminal activity. A better option would be getting drug users help, putting them in treatment and encouraging them to come back to a society where they will be welcomed, a society they can be proud to become a productive member of.

America has a couple thinking errors that we should be proactive about correcting. The first is the stigma surrounding drugs and drug users, and it is a heavy one. It is incredibly discouraging for those who want to seek help, many do not for fear of being shamed and cast out by friends and communities. In his TED Talk “Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong”, Johann Hari talks about a science experiment that looks at behaviorisms of rats given drugged water and regular water. When alone, the rats never fail to drink the drugged water and even become compulsive drinkers, many end up overdosing. Yet when the rats are all placed together in the same habitat, there are rarely any rats that turn to the drugged water. The theory is that this is because having a sense of community gives the rats no need to turn to drugs, no boredom, no loneliness, no depression etc. Unfortunately, once a person is put in the category of “drug addict” in the US it is a massive battle getting back out, more massive perhaps, than the battle to escape chemical dependency.

The next, and the last point, I would like to make is the issue of mental health in America. All too often you see comorbidities in substance abuse. Many people turn to drugs (whether consciously or subconsciously) to relieve the emotional turmoil caused by a co-occurring mental health condition. In my case, I had an undiagnosed severe general anxiety condition that was detrimental to my mental wellbeing. As an adolescent, all I wanted was relief, a sense of belonging without agonizing over the catastrophic scenarios that were running through my mind. Drugs gave me that relief, but the consequences that came with them were much more debilitating than the anxiety had been. Mental health in the US is a sensitive subject though, and in many parts of the country having a mental health condition still comes with a branding of “weak” or “crazy”. I think pushing past this silly idea and learning to embrace the importance of mental health wellness would be a huge step in the right direction.

As a recovering heroin addict, I would love to see an America that reaches out to the struggling addicts and offers love, support and help. I have seen too many good people disappear behind the face of heroin and watched their potential be crushed into nothing, I have lost too many friends to overdose. I would like to see more understanding and empathy so getting help and getting out from under dependency isn’t so daunting. It takes a conscious effort from each and every person to do it, so let’s change our headspace and get there together.

[1] (National Institute of Alcohol and Drug Abuse, 1998)