The heroin epidemic is taking front row in the current presidential campaigns. One would think that drug addiction is something the government can turn on and off. Can they? The federal and state governments have taken steps to control drug addiction for the past century, but people are still dependent on drugs. I submit that the answer to drug addiction is not government programs. The answer is personal responsibility.
Political rhetoric abounds. From the campaign speeches, one would think drug addiction primarily comes from ethical pain killers and from an increase availability of treatment.
Indeed we have patients who are treated with narcotic pain killers for pain, and some become addicted. Does this mean the doctors involved are not adequately trained or are not practicing their professions correctly? This is what Mrs. Clinton is suggesting. As a member of a medical family I can assure you that doctors and other medical professionals are highly trained in drug addiction. Furthermore, they have observed in the course of their practices case after case of addiction. What more can doctors do?
We have become a nation of wimps. We expect life to be pain-free. When pain strikes, we demand our doctors to give us a pill or shot to eliminate ALL pain. I held the medical power of attorney for my neighbor. She had a number of painful medical problems and expected her doctor to free her of that pain. Part of the problem was a low pain tolerance, and part of the problem was her expectation for the pain killers to instantly remove all pain. During one medical incident when the neighbor was hospitalized and screaming for morphine 30 minutes after her last shot (2 hour minimum frequency) her doctor informed me that nothing more could be done for the patient’s pain because her pain medications were already on the threshold of addiction. At the risk of sounding cruel and insensitive, there are times when patients must bear the pain.
Rather than giving our doctors more training, it might be more effective for us, as patients, to not expect so much of our doctors. Rather than demanding more pain killers, perhaps we should be asking our doctors when we can begin reducing the pain medication. Perhaps we need to grit our teeth and accept a small amount of pain.
For those who do get addicted in spite of the doctor’s best efforts and the patient’s desire to get off of pain meds, Mr. Sanders is correct. We need to make sure treatment is available, but even there, personal responsibility is important. How often do we hear of a person in treatment for substance abuse for their third or fourth time? Treatment is of little use unless the patient wants to be free of the addiction.
We all agree some people take ethical pain killers and become addicted, but how large a number of people is that. Having taught high school, I can tell you a greater risk of addiction is among those who are recreational users. There are far more people taking drugs for “kicks” than for medical reasons. Our society has glorified drug use to the point where many people think it is the thing to do. Peer pressure is also very strong among the young people, especially middle school and high school students. College students are not immune to peer pressure.
Unfortunately, we have a younger generation who think they no longer have to listen to older people. They are not willing to learn from the wisdom of the older generation. They ignore those who have had experience with drugs and advise against experimentation. They ignore health warnings from health professionals. They are not willing to listen to elders who have had to deal with addicted friends and family members.
This is the place where personal responsibility is most important. The millions of youth and older people at risk of substance abuse need to wake up. There are serious health risks and social risks to be considered. Those at risk of substance abuse need to read up on these risks. Among the risks is that addiction comes more quickly than can be expected on the basis of what popular culture says. They also need to listen to the comments and advice of their elders. When someone talks about the down side of their past drug use or talks about the pain of seeing a friend suffering from addiction, our youth need to listen. Most of us older folk have been there either as a drug user or the friend of one.
In addition, personal responsibility requires one to restrain oneself from substance abuse or to seek help if the “kicks” turn into a habit.
As a writer, I feel writers need to take their part in this battle. You may not glorify drug use in your writing, but do you discourage it? Far too many authors write substance abuse into a character as part of a description of personality, but do they say or even hint at such behavior as unacceptable? Except for furistic stories and fantacy, authors are obligated to portray life accurately. This means we may have to write about drugs and substance abuse, but I feel we also have an obligation to society to be totally honest. Our character may get a high or relief from anxiety when they take drugs, but somewhere the story must also inform the reader of the risks and damage that substance abuse causes to people and society.
No matter what the politicians say, government action alone can not handle the current heroin epidemic or any other substance abuse problem. Medical professionals may play a part in addiction, but ethical drug use is not the primary diving force behind addiction.
The war on drugs can be won, but it only can be won by the direct action of individuals. Those of us who are older and wiser, need to do all we can to keep drug use from being glorified. Perhaps some movie stars need to come out strongly against drug use. Those who are at risk of becoming substance abusers need to take the personal responsibility of saying, “No!” to recreational use and saying, “Only the minimum, please,” when offered pain killers. The war will be won or lost by the populus.