Drug Rehab 2022 Round 1 – Education can save lives

Name: Jessica Hopkins

Education can save lives

This nation is going through an epidemic when it comes to addiction. People are losing friends, husbands, wives, and children. The way things have gotten, a lot of the drugs on the street have been laced with fentanyl which causes overdoses. When I was in the middle of a meth and alcohol addiction, I decided I wanted to try heroin for the first time. My first time I overdosed and was lucky enough to have been saved. It wouldn’t be the last time for me though. The luck is not on people trying or doing drugs anymore. The first time could end your life permanently.

I currently live in Bucks County in Pennsylvania, which is a short drive down to Kensington and Alleghany, which is like the drug capital of the world. When you take a drive down there, you can see how bad drug addiction can get. People are selling themselves on the street to make money to get their fix and others are camped out along the road because they are homeless. To those that have not been around a drug addict or alcoholic, or even those that have seen it firsthand wonders why and how someone can choose to live that way. To an outsider, it seems crazy, and it makes them wonder how someone can give up relationships with family and friends, live on the streets, and choose that life when they should just be able to put it down.

Addiction is a disease though and as someone who has gone through it, I can say I wish it was as easy to put down the drugs and alcohol. Once you cross an invisible line, there is no coming back from being an addict, but there is hope that you can live a clean life and be an addict in recovery. I believe addiction is such a major crisis because people aren’t educated on this topic and by the time, they have already crossed the line, it is too late to try and prevent it.

I remember in high school learning about drugs and drinking. They teach you the name of the drugs and show you before and after pictures of people that use. They teach you not to drink and drive because it is dangerous. I think we should bring in an addict or alcoholic to tell their story and how they ended up where they ended up. It’s hard for people who are in high school to comprehend that they could end up as an alcoholic when the pictures seem so fake, and the information is just scratching the surface level of deeper knowledge on the topic. I believe that if someone had come in and shared their story maybe it would have given me knowledge for down the line. Maybe it could have prevented me from going down a dark past. I can’t think in “what ifs”, but I do believe that education is the power and education on this topic could help someone before they make the decision to drink or use or could be a lingering memory in their mind, they can reflect back on down the line if they have made the decision to drink or use and ended up an addict.

In AA, we have speakers who come in to share their story of what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now. I thankfully had someone who saw what was happening and was involved in AA who reached out to me and brought me to my first meeting. When I heard the speaker share, I could relate, and I didn’t feel so lonely. I can’t say that the first meeting helped me stop using and drinking right away, but with time and my own experience, I finally came around to AA a few years later. Going to AA meetings was my first time really being educated on addiction and the power drugs and alcohol really have on me and others. What if we could talk to high school students and have them hear our stories? Maybe they can relate or learn something that they can hold onto that will prevent them from making the same mistakes or something they can remember down the line, just like I did, that helped bring me to AA.

Another reason we have an addiction crisis going on is from the prescribing of pain medicine. Doctors sometimes prescribe it harmlessly, and others prescribe it carelessly. Many people start off on pain medication and enjoy the feelings it brings to them and get hooked. I think doctors need to be educated as well about addiction. Doctors hold the power of prescribing something so strong it could potentially change someone’s life which turns into a ripple effect pf changing so many lives. Someone with that kind of power needs to be educated on the harmful effects of pain medication. I’ve known a few people that started with pain medication and got hooked and ended up in addiction.

When I was in the hospital to have my baby, I had 1 year clean. I ended up having to have a C-section which is painful. Pain medication is useful when taken as prescribed and not abused. When I went to go home from the hospital, they tossed in a Percocet prescription without even asking. I had made it clear that I was in recovery from the start and yet, they tossed in the prescription without even asking if I was comfortable taking it home. When I called the nurse to tell her I did not want the prescription to take home with me, she made it seem like a hassle to take it back and kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to go home without bringing it with me. Maybe if the nurses had been educated on addiction from someone that has gone through it, they would have understood and took it back no questions asked.

Addiction doesn’t just destroy an individual it destroys relationships the addict has with others. For me personally, I lost touch with all my family. I was too busy focusing on the drugs and the alcohol to be bothered with them. I destroyed my friend’s house in a meth and alcohol rage and lost any relationship I had with him and in the process lost my place to live. I lost many jobs because I would show up late or high and then in turn I was slowly dwindling out of money. Addiction can leave someone homeless and poor. I was living out of motels, in my car, or spending a night here and there at a friend’s house. Most importantly, an addict can lose their life to this disease. I was lucky enough to be brought back to life, but not everyone gets the second chance I had. And as the individual loses his or her life, a family or friend loses that individual, too.

I think we can help addicts by being open and honest about addiction. Some people don’t want others to know they’re an addict, but I am open and honest about my past. I feel that if I do this, I might be able to help someone who is going through, knows someone close to them that is or has gone through it, or be a hand to grab on to if the person finds themselves going down this path. I think we need to educate high schoolers with stories from real people they can hear speak their story. A lot of addicts and alcoholics start their drinking and using in high school or right after. We need to educate them with real stories and people they can see in front of them and not just VCR tapes that show someone in the 80’s talking about drinking, because, let’s face it, the times have changed and so have the drugs. We also need to educate those in the medical field. People in the medical field deal with all different kind of individuals and most likely will run into an addict or alcoholic at one point in their time working. If they are educated on addicts, they can be empathetic towards these people and understand them. They can know how to offer help like rehab or any kind of drug or alcohol anonymous meetings, instead of just offering more pain medication to give into their addiction. Education is power, but we need to start with kids who are old enough to process this information and those that deal with addicts in their career. Through education about addiction, any drug and alcohol anonymous programs, and rehab whether it’s through speakers coming to speak to them, visiting an open meeting of any drug or alcohol anonymous group, or showing real life events dealing with addiction, we can slowly educate people to make better decisions or to find help when they are ready.