opinion

COLUMN: Addiction has no face in our country



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Opioid addiction is a growing problem in the United States, and some believe it should be seen as a public health dilemma, not a border issue.  Tribune News Service Buy Photos

Individuals struggling with addiction are often seen as just a statistic in the news, but it's important to remember that there is no greater trait than compassion for those who are affected by addiction.

When I was younger, I had this vision of what a drug addict looked like. I had a narrow view of addicts. I forgot they are real people who have an entire life ahead of themselves and families who adore them. Until one day, everything changed, and that addiction manifested itself in someone I knew and loved.

There is often this debate between whether being addicted to drugs is a choice or rather a disease that actually modifies the way one’s brain works. It’s easy to view it as a poor choice when you are lucky enough to have never dealt with it.

Whether it be an addiction to opioids, heroin or other illegal drugs, there is a stigma surrounding it. Quite frankly, people don’t want to talk about it. They don’t want to see it on the streets. They don’t want to hear about it in the news. Yet, it’s expected to be magically cured. Everyone likes to voice their opinion about how it should be handled.

Several people could try the same drug, but only one of them might become addicted. The simple explanation for that is that everyone’s brain works differently, and addiction is influenced by many factors. I think it’s important to look at why people begin using in the first place because often people begin doing drugs to fill a void in their life. However, I think the most important thing we can do is figure out the right path for them to heal from whatever demons they are facing and get them on the path to recovery.

In all honesty, the United States is not doing enough to combat this problem. We are focusing on the wrong issues. Drugs are coming into this country through countless points of entry and are also being smuggled in overseas. Building a billion-dollar wall does not solve the problem by any means. That money could be used to help create more affordable rehab centers and create other resources for drug addicts.

Everyone loves to be concerned about how the drugs are filtering in, yet once they are in and being distributed, we are going after the wrong people. It needs to be an open conversation, and if it gets to the point where people are going through full-blown addiction, they need to be able to get the right treatment.

The fact of the matter is that drugs are so easily acquired that it makes it even more difficult for addicts to recover. Live-in rehab centers tend to be successful because addicts are able to recover from the constant turmoil outside those walls where drugs are just a phone call away. While those types of rehab centers can be great resources, the good ones are undoubtedly expensive, and state-funded centers can tend to have waiting-lists.

We see it in celebrities, and we see and hear the backlash they receive in the media. Just look at the number of overdoses that have happened to those who seemingly have it all. It’s not enough to combat addiction. You can have it all, or you can have nothing. Remember, it can still affect anyone regardless of their status.

Thankfully, Bloomington does have a few treatment centers that are available for those struggling with addiction. These include Amethyst House, CleanState Addiction Treatment Center and Indiana Center for Recovery.

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