If the overdoses of Demi Lovato and Mac Miller tell us anything it’s that people today still don’t understand addiction. We’re quick to blame users for their actions without considering what additional help may be needed. It’s time that we got serious in understanding the issues behind addiction to try and avoid or lessen future overdoses.
After the world learned of Demi Lovato’s overdose and later hospitalization, many blamed her for the relapse. The same can be said for Mac Miller’s tragic death. I get it. They both knew the dangers of drug use and are in control of their own actions. But what if we can do more?
I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know anything about serious addiction. It seems obvious to avoid anything that has a high likelihood of killing you. From where I’m sitting, it seems like a conscious choice. You either take the drugs or you don’t.
There has to be more to it though. If it were simply down to a choice, live or die, many would hopefully choose to live. They’d avoid these drugs. But according to the CDC, more than 72,000 Americans died of an overdose in 2017. Surely many of those who lost their life didn’t intend on having that happen when it did.
It’s typical for anyone dealing with addiction to go to drug treatment centers which, for more serious addiction, would be residential. Patients go through a detox and then receive 30 days of treatment.
These centers can be great to get people out of their usual environment, which could aid or encourage drug use, and help them create and maintain a schedule. But unless this treatment is covered by insurance, it can cost thousands of dollars.
This system is built on the belief that once patients leave treatment and re-enter society, they will be successful. Yet 40 to 60 percent of patients will relapse. It is vital for their success that we create plans that encourage frequent follow ups.
The only way we can start truly helping those dealing with drug addiction is by removing the stigma around it.
Yes, people use drugs. They get addicted. They are not any less of a human being for it.
We should ask ourselves what made them use drugs in the first place. We should be creating a safe space for open dialogue to discuss triggers, accessibility, and treatment. What are we not doing? What options and support systems can we create to help those dealing with addiction?
If you know someone battling addiction, reach out to them. Check up on them randomly and try to hold them accountable. Chances are, that additional help would be appreciated.
Saying it was someone’s fault for their overdose or their choice to become addicted dismisses the humanity of the user entirely. There is more going on under the surface if we just stopped judging for one moment and decided to help.
This stigma around addiction buries the real issue and prevents us from finding better ways to treat addiction. If we can help everyone understand on a basic level the workings of chronic addiction, we would be that much closer to finding more effective treatment methods. We are more powerful together than we are when divided.
If we can take the opioid crisis seriously, why can’t we do the same for all addictions? It’s time to stop acting as if drug addiction is a societal anomaly.
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Also published on Medium.