The first thing I want to say is that when you think about NIDA, think Nora Volkow and click on her name to see who she is. NIDA ( National Institute on drug Abuse ) is best defined by Wikipedia; Ms Volkow is a phenomenal director doing important work on the scourge of drug addiction in America. On this day, October 28th, NIDA, is launching a new public outreach called SHOUT OUT!, to publicize and shatter myths about the world of drug addiction and treatment. particularly related to our young people and their parents. Drug abuse can turn into drug addiction and moms and dads need to know they are often the last ones to know. Yes, I am on fire. I have children and have known many young people who have suffered needlessly. Here are a few myths I would like to shatter during NIDA’s drug fact week:
1. Addiction is an isolated condition, of mostly meth and heroin dependence that preys on a few depraved souls and we should ignore them and hope they go away. North America is now nearing a point where 25 million citizens suffer from some identified condition of addiction to a legal or illegal substance. Addiction to dangerous illegal narcotics, meth-amphetamines and cocaine, according to most sources, affects an average of 7 million Americans on any given day. More than one and a half million addicts are in jail at the time you read this. This is anything but isolated. It impacts us all.
2. An addict can just quit because god gave us the strength and will power to do so. A few hearty souls can do it that easy! I hope your loved one is one of them. AA and NA recognizes that there are those we can not explain. Addiction is brain altering disease, often accompanied by mental illness and depression. AA and NA acknowledges; addiction is for life. Once sober, diligence is key. The doors of 12 step rooms are revolving, because an addict or alcoholic is always welcome back, unconditionally, with just a desire to stay clean for today. The ultimate path of addiction is physiological and cognitive impairment, but with good treatment, addicts can be rehabilitated. The degree of that success relies on ones basic human will to want their life back.
3. Addiction is a behavioral problem. We need to let our jails deal with it and keep it out of the health care system. For some, jail may be an answer. However, more than half of inmates are locked up for drug related crimes or possession. Locking them up doesn’t solve their problem. Many of these people are our kids! Addiction not dealt with by proper treatment, save for sheer will power, will progress to a medical condition. Our emergency rooms attest to the heavy impact from overdoses and other carnage. The cost to society of untreated addiction is astronomical if you include this cost of health care; its incarceration, related mental illness, and the costly drug war. That costs America hundreds of billions. Diverting, criminalized addicts from jail to compulsory treatment would begin to realize a better cost to success ratio and defuse the drug war focus.
4. Addiction can easily be treated by private treatment practitioners and public resources for detox and rehab. Of course, addiction can be effectively treated by a private practitioner at a cost that only very well-funded addicts can afford. Less than 5% of all addicts and alcoholics received inpatient rehabilitation in 2010. OAS.SAMHSA. If addiction were to be recognized as a medical condition, insurance and public health services would treat it. Easy right? Not so! Legislators are still working hard to punish drug use in jail and keep addiction out of the health care system. That still costs the same billions and addicts that go untreated will cause damage to themselves, their families and our communities.
5. Addiction is morally bad. Judging an addict morally is unproductive and a diversion from positive solutions. Many moms and dads have a young addict in the family and would give anything for the elusive cure. Addiction, is an ugly health care problem and society perpetuates it by hating it. Morality, as a positive human attribute, can be just as easily defined by treating addiction, much as we would treat cancer. Addiction, like a cancer has destructive symptoms. For an addict, that is cognitive impairment, deterioration, social criminality and death.
6. Addiction will not be an issue when America finally wins the Drug War and drugs are no longer available. As long the demand is there, drugs will be there. Society will demand eradication, that fills our jails with drug users and the mentally ill. Changing that is like turning around a ship in a narrow canal. A system grounded in conquering evil by destroying it, is infinitely expensive. You don’t change that; you end it. A “drug war” can’t be won when we are source of demand. Once we acknowledge that, we can begin to reduce demand by dealing with the human beings that are defined by a bondage to drug use. If America, shifts its focus to a “war on addiction”, funding will come from a transformation of purpose, and new job definitions will emerge that focus on the preservation of human lives freeing addicts from bondage to drugs.
NIDA, SAMSA, ONDCP and other public agencies who fight to show people how to stop using drugs can step to the plate to be advocates for a sober nation. Our trusted public organizations have the resources and influence to do so and it will start with legislating to address the issue. Our young disillusioned teams, will see for themselves, we have a nation that cares and if not from their own sheer will power will to enjoy the clarity of mind only sobriety can provide.