Name: Katcina Smith
From: Salem, Oregon
Grade: College Freshman
School: Chemeketa Community College
Votes: 0 Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 - Addiction Awareness

Addiction Awareness

Smith,
Katcina 2020 Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign

Addiction
Awareness

Katcina
Smith

Seasons
in Malibu

Addiction
Awareness Scholarship Campaign

December
31, 2019

Personal
Introduction

I
think it is important that I be upfront, honest, and transparent with
you. I personally have been deeply impacted by the actions of a
loved one that is addicted to drugs and alcohol. My thoughts and
opinions expressed here come from 13 years of law enforcement and the
sister and ex-wife of an addict/alcoholic. So, you see I have dealt
with addiction on a personal and a professional level for many years.
It is one of the many factors that has led me to the path of going
back to school to become a mental health provider, I want to give
back like those who gave to me when I needed it the most.

As
a sister I have seen my brother go through rehab several times now.
His addiction has cost him his very lucrative job, his professional
reputation, his marriage, his family, his home. When you care and
love an addict watching them spiral out of control it is incredibly
difficult to do the one thing that feels the least loving and kind
and that is love them enough to move out of the way so that they can
reach their bottom and hopefully choose to live differently. Making
excuses, helping hide the behavior from other family members,
enabling the behaviors that are slowly killing our loved one can be
something we do out of what we think is kindness and helping, but
ultimately, we are just cosigning their negative behaviors. It takes
a long time and a lot of personal work to learn that and it can be a
hard pill to swallow. Here you think you’re helping with a problem
and really, you’re contributing to it getting worse.

As
the wife of an alcoholic you learn new coping skills to deal with the
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality changes. There are days you want
him to drink so that he will just hurry up and show his monstrous
self instead of walking on eggshells waiting for it to appear. The
behaviors and attitudes can cause, well for me, did cause
irreversible damage to our marriage and ultimately, we divorced.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make the decision to divorce before our
children became some of the collateral damage of living in a chaotic
alcoholic home and to this day each of them have different
characteristics and behaviors that are a direct result of the
environment in which they were raised and I have to own my part in
that. As a mother it was my job to protect them and it took me a
long time to find the courage and self-worth to leave their father.
As a mother it is one of my greatest regrets. My actions or maybe
better stated, inactions caused harm to my children and that is
something we all have to live with.

As
a law enforcement officer, I handled the fights, domestic violence
calls, major and/or fatal accidents and other incidents caused by
addiction and substance abuse. The damage it leaves behind is what
causes nightmares for so many of us. It required a different mindset
than being a sister or wife of an addict/alcoholic. These were
suspects of potential criminal acts and we were called to clean up
the carnage caused by the behaviors and actions that came with
intoxication. Seeing the innocent victims was the hardest…the kids
impacted by growing up in a home with addiction, the families that
were injured or worse yet, killed by a drunk driver that only had a
scratch, or the bystander that tried to help break up a drunken brawl
that got stabbed while trying to do a good deed.

Having
the opportunity to have various perspectives of how addiction and
substance abuse impacts individuals, families, and society serves as
a motivation to get through school so that I can help others overcome
the wreckage that addiction causes.


Why
do you believe we as a nation are dealing with an addiction crisis?

I
believe the current addiction crisis has multiple causes. First, our
medical system has become one where everyone wants a quick fix,
typically a pill to make an issue better. Doctor’s in trying to
make patients happy and get them out quickly so they can move on to
their next appointment have been quick to prescribe narcotics instead
of utilizing other methods of treatment (i.e., physical therapy,
acupuncture, chiropractic care). Sadly, this has led to the overuse
and ultimately an increase in dependency on pain medications because
the actual issue is never resolved so patients require more pain
medication for symptom control which eventually leads to addiction
for some. Additionally, this has led to a massive crack down on how
pain medication is prescribed and chronic pain patients like myself
(I have a non-operable T12 compression burst fracture in my spine)
receive treatment. It is a battle to get enough pain medication to
keep me functional. I’ll never be able to have the active
lifestyle I had before which includes carrying and/or lifting up my
seven-year-old daughter. I get to find a new normal and be grateful
that while it’s painful, and I can’t do it for long, I can still
walk.

In
my opinion, the second cause of the current addiction crisis is the
lack of mental health care in our country. Between the negative
stigma that comes with seeking mental health care and the shortage of
providers, getting the assistance one needs to handle life’s
struggles has led many to turn to drugs and alcohol as coping
mechanisms instead of constructive coping skills that can be
developed with a properly trained mental health provider.

Lastly,
I think we as a society are to blame for the current addiction
crisis. We as a society mock those who need help, and in many ways
encourage our friends, family, and peers to cope by developing
negative coping skills (i.e., using a substance to escape from
stress, quiet our minds, or deal with “bad” days). Hollywood has
made it acceptable, if not popular to use mind altering substances to
cope with what we deem as negative emotions. It’s seen in movies,
on television shows, and now in many homes across the country…have
a bad day go home and have a couple drinks and all is better.
Additionally, “movie stars” get slaps on the hand, if any
punishment at all when arrested for drunk driving or drug charges.
Drug and alcohol offenses are treated as victimless crimes and often
result in minimal punishments. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not
saying that putting someone in jail will fix an addiction, but there
does need to be a strong enough deterrent that getting arrested for
drunk driving or illegal drug possession is less appealing to the
general public.

Ultimately,
our national addiction crisis is a multi-faceted issue. It is going
to take mental health professionals, communities, medical
professionals, and law enforcement to all come together and work to
solve the problem that has been years in the making.

What
are the consequences of this addiction for the individual and
society?

I’ll
address society first. Addiction has a major impact that so many
seem to fail to understand. It causes an increase in property
crimes, because some addicts choose to break into homes to sell
stolen items to buy more drugs. Abandoned buildings become flop
houses where addicts go to use, making the building unsafe until it
has been properly decontaminated. These homes also drive the
property value of a neighborhood down impacting the rest of the
neighbor’s ability to sell their home if they so choose to. It
causes an increase in homelessness, because eventually many addicts
can’t hold down a job. Homeless camps can lead to the spread of
disease and other issues that impact the quality of life for both the
addicts and the community where they are located.

For
the addict the consequences can vary. It depends on how much their
loved ones and support system enable their behavior and allow it to
be acceptable. It can be loss of a job, divorce, loss of custody of
their child/children, homelessness, jail time, to death.

How
can we remedy the crisis on both the individual and societal level?

I
think this is the hardest question, there is no easy answer or even a
concrete answer, because if there was one it would be used across the
country, if not the world and we would not be where we are today.

We
can start by reinstituting the Drug Abuse Resistance Education
(D.A.R.E.) program in our schools so that our youth are taught about
the dangers of drugs. For me personally, sitting in a classroom at
the age of 10 and having a former crack addict come in and explain
what using crack had done to her body, her life, and what it had cost
her stuck with me, and still does. It was enough to scare me from
ever being tempted to try anything as a teenager. Bring back the
commercial of the frying the egg in the frying pan and explaining
that the raw egg was your brain and the fried egg was your brain on
drugs…things like that have stuck with me decades later.

Mental
health has to become a priority across the country. For starters the
negative stigma attached to seeking help needs to be squashed. We
lose more Emergency Responders to suicide than we do to Line of Duty
Deaths every year all because it is deemed shameful and they will be
seen as weak for asking for help. If the people who serve and
protect us can’t get help how is anyone else supposed to? Mental
health care needs to be affordable and accessible to everyone. I
understand this will take years, if not decades to happen due to the
shortage of practitioners, but we can address the shortage now by
encouraging up and coming generations to seek higher education in the
mental health field and revamping the medical system so that mental
health practitioners are accessible to everyone.

We
as a country need to humble ourselves enough to look at other
countries and see what they are doing to address addiction,
homelessness, mental health issues and be willing to learn from
countries that have found solutions or even steps to take to make
improvements.

The
medical profession needs to go back to practicing patient focused
medicine instead of insurance companies dictating what kind of care
people get. Doctors need to be able to run diagnostic tests without
weeks of waiting for prior authorizations and then prescribe
solutions to the long-term problem instead of masking symptoms with a
pain pill that keeps the patient coming back for more and more until
their life revolves around when they can take their next pill.


Conclusion

Partnerships
between the mental health community, the medical professional
community, law enforcement, and each and every community need to be
made so that hand in hand we can work together to make a difference
in a problem that truly impacts all of us in some way. Addiction is
an issue that has many aspects to it. There are no simple, easy, or
quick solutions. It is something that tears families apart, costs
communities thousands of dollars if not more in property crime and
sanitation issues, for some it costs them their lives. We owe
ourselves and our future generations a more concentrated effort in
addressing addiction, the issues that cause it, and the treatment of
it.

4


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