Society stigmatizes addicts as bad people that make a choice to become addicted.
When I was a little girl, however, I did not dream of becoming a drug addict, nor did I say, ‘I want to grow up and have children to have them taken away from me by Children and Youth Services.’ I did not aim to become homeless because of jobs lost due to my addiction. I did not want to steal money from my family to buy my drugs. I did not want to lose my brother to this disease 2007. I did not plan to lose hope – but it happened because I COULD NOT STOP using. My addiction made so many of my choices for me. I was controlled by my disease and did things I wouldn’t do if I were not using.
Since 1956, the American Medical Society (AMA) has recognized addiction as a disease. It is a chronic disease that has no cure. This disease creates distortions in thinking, feelings and perceptions. Addictive behaviors are manifestations of the disease. The reward system part of the brain is in complete control. Addiction is not a choice. Without help, the addicted person cannot stop using due to their inability to think rationally. The person must change their way of thinking when they attempt abstinence. With support and options in treatment, the brain can start to mend and achieve balance with the rational part of the brain.
We can help. We can stop moralizing, blaming, incarcerating and turning our head because the addict is not our child, spouse or sibling. We, as a society, need to step up and say that it’s not someone else’s problem. It is ours, and it is beyond an epidemic, reaching apocalyptic levels.
We can make a difference. Education and prevention is a start. So is saving lives with naloxone, which is now available without a prescription. In Washington County where I live, our officials are being proactive and taking a stand to help people who suffer from this disease. I want to commend them for their courage and their efforts. The mayor of Canonsburg, David Rhome, has formed a committee “Communities Moving Forward,” for prevention, education, health and wellness of the community. He has also incorporated naloxone into his police department – the first department in Washington County to carry the lifesaving drug. The District Attorney, Gene Vittone, had a float in the Canonsburg parade with theme of “helping someone find help .” He is looking at cases on an individual basis and is working closely with the Washington Drug and Alcohol Commission to utilize treatment instead of incarceration. Since the beginning of June of 2015, according to the District Attorney, we have saved a total of 18 lives with naloxone in Washington County alone. We are making a difference. Recovery is possible for anyone.
In 2010, my life was saved with naloxone and I now have over 3 years in long term recovery. I believe I can make a difference in this world by sharing my face and my voice in recovery. I am working as a Recovery Specialist at the Washington Drug and Alcohol commission in Washington, Pa. where I support and give back to my community by helping other people who are suffering with this disease. If I can help save just one life with my experience then my purpose will be fulfilled.
If you or anyone you know needs help please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 724-223-1181 and you will find someone who will be happy to help you find recovery.
Sue Pryor CRS