Addiction is just a symptom of a larger problem

It’s very sad that it has taken all these deaths for middle-class America to open its eyes to drug abuse and addiction. While this article and the survivors mentioned in it are focusing on one drug — heroin — the truth is that drug addicts are rarely using just one drug. The media talks about drugs like opioids and heroin, while rarely mentioning the other drugs involved, which usually include alcohol.

Alcohol is legal, cheap, and easy to obtain, which is why so many people abuse it. Compared to other drugs, it is the most lethal for the user’s brain and body, and acts like poison in large doses and with long-term use. But there will never be another war against alcohol, like the current war against pain patients and illegal drugs. The fact is that prohibition has never worked, as history has shown. Which is why making only certain drugs illegal doesn’t work either — because drugs are not the main problem with addiction.

And while it’s important to bring these stories of addiction into public view, I’m not sure this is helping to reduce stigma. Part of the stigma and shame is when family members and treatment centers force drug users into abstinence, as if that’s the only way to manage and treat drug addiction. And when drug addicts believe this to be true, the inevitable relapse just makes them feel worse about themselves. When a patient loses hope for recovery, it’s a recipe for disaster, tragically ending in overdoses and suicide.

Part of reducing the stigma is looking at the causes of drug addiction, which include things like mental illness, violence, rape, and PTSD, along with DNA and a sensitivity to specific drugs. Instead of just looking at the addiction itself, we must also look at why someone begins using drugs and why they continue. Is it an undiagnosed or untreated mental illness? Is it untreated or under-treated pain?  Is it low self-esteem, insecurity, self-hate, or overwhelming anxiety? But I have a feeling that former middle-class America doesn’t want to talk about the family and social issues that contribute to drug addiction.

Only talking about and treating the drug addiction doesn’t work.  Addiction is just a symptom of a larger problem.

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — When George P. Gauthier died of an opiate overdose in May at 44, his sister, Cindy Gauthier-Rivera, wrote an obituary that was more like a cry from the heart.

His destructive addictions to heroin, painkillers and alcohol had cost him his marriage, his children, his job and eventually his life, she wrote from her home here in western Massachusetts. An outgoing man who dressed well and loved music and poetry, he had wanted to become a drug counselor, saving others from the abyss. Instead, he plunged further into it; he was found dead at their mother’s house, just a few miles from his sister…

Over the same period, heroin-related overdose deaths nearly quadrupled, with more than 8,200 reported in 2013…

Jack Pond was also called Son, Daddy, Brother and Friend and Jack was an addict,” began Jack Pond Ringler’s obituary in The Gazette in Colorado Springs in November. He was 26.

After Wade B. Pickett Sr., 34, was found dead of a heroin overdose in early May in the bathroom of the metal shop where he was a welder, his wife, Tiffany, wrote of his addiction in The Express-Times in Easton, Pa. “I am sorry if this obituary offends, hurts or shames some people,” she wrote. “I hope that it might help save some people from the incredible heartache we are experiencing.”

In the obituary for Daniel Joseph Wolanski, 24, of Avon Lake, Ohio, who fell victim to heroin in April, his family wrote, “Someone you know is battling addiction; if your ‘gut instinct’ says something is wrong, it most likely is.” …

Kurt Byrne, who says he has been clean for 17 months, encouraged his mother to go public and said the candid obituaries seemed like a necessary step. “It’s a healthy step toward taking away the stigma,” he said. “And if it’s Johnny from next door, it opens people’s eyes that this isn’t just people on the street corners.”

Tracey Marino, whose 23-year-old son, James, recently died from a heroin overdose at home in Stratford, Conn., omitted that detail from his obituary. “People who knew and loved him knew what killed him,” she said in an email. “But to people who I knew were judgmental, I tell them he died of cardiac arrest. Because I did not want his legacy to be he was a drug addict by people who have NO clue about addiction.” …

Richard Vachon, 69, a retired cook in Manchester, found his son, Cody, 21, on the floor of their home in May, dead of a heroin overdose, which he wrote in his son’s obituary. Once he feels “less shaky,” the heartbroken father said, he wants to “speak my mind and see if I can reach someone through my experience.”

One woman, Elizabeth Sue Sleasman, 37, of Bellingham, Wash., took the extraordinary step of writing her own brutally frank obituary, which her parents published after she died; she realized her death was inevitable and wanted to warn other addicts about what lay ahead…

I entered the Methadone treatment and stopped using, but unfortunately my drinking habit kept on and I started using again…

One thought on “Addiction is just a symptom of a larger problem

  1. I’m a pain patient and am totally feeling the blow back from government meddling. As far as drugs go… definitely the worst. It destroys lives in such a slick way. I’m sick and tired of its impact on my own life, and on society, in general.

    Liked by 1 person

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