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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Why Save a Dirty Drug Addict?



"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in 
my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; 
even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.  
These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.  

"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, 
as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, 
that a man lay down his life for his friends." 

--John 15:9-13, King James Bible

Saving a life is the most noble act of humankind. When we consider the worst possible outcome for a drug addict, we must put ourselves into a situation unimaginable to most: We must save the lives of social rejects who have become burdens to society while willfully destroying their own lives. This, undoubtedly, puts the caring individual in peril.

How hard it is for most of us to love those we commonly consider to be despicable human beings. Many of us hate addicts; many more of us merely treat them with cold indifference. And, nearly all of us cannot fathom how anyone could fall to full-blown addiction.

Even though everyone knows an addict faces the very real possibility of death, countless staunch advocates of sobriety wish to deny addicts expensive intervention and treatments that cost taxpayers huge sums of money. In other words, it is common to believe addicts have personal failings that they, alone, are supposed to overcome.

New Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research shows people are significantly more likely to have negative attitudes toward those suffering from drug addiction than those with mental illness, and they don't support insurance, housing, and employment policies that benefit those dependent on drugs.

"While drug addiction and mental illness are both chronic, treatable health conditions, the American public is more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing than a medical condition," says study leader Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

("Stigma, Discrimination, Treatment Effectiveness, and Policy: Public Views
About Drug Addiction and Mental Illness," Psychiatric Services, 2014)

Barry continues: "In recent years, it has become more socially acceptable to talk publicly about one's struggles with mental illness. But with addiction, the feeling is that the addict is a bad or weak person, especially because much drug use is illegal."

Not only did the research find that respondents had significantly more negative opinions about those with drug addiction than those with mental illness, the researchers found much higher levels of public opposition to policies that might help drug addicts in their recovery.

Here are some specific findings:

* Only 22 percent of respondents said they would be willing to work closely on a job with a person with drug addiction compared to 62 percent who said they would be willing to work with someone with mental illness.

* Sixty-four percent said that employers should be able to deny employment to people with a drug addiction compared to 25 percent with a mental illness.

* Forty-three percent were opposed to giving individuals addicted to drugs equivalent health insurance benefits to the public at-large, while only 21 percent were opposed to giving the same benefits to those with mental illness.

* Respondents agreed on one question: Roughly three in 10 believe that recovery from either mental illness or drug addiction is impossible. That is 30% who do not believe or support any recovery for mental illness OR drug addiction. 

This is the same American public that, according to the Centers for Disease Control, contains a population of about 25% of adults suffering from a mental illness, and the same public, that according to the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, reported that 23.9 million American citizens over age 11 had used illicit drugs in the month preceding the survey.


What is the major cause of the stigma associated with drug abuse and drug addiction? It comes as no surprise that we are accustomed to believing drug addiction is the result of messing up in life and that in order to break free, one just has to have enough willpower. I would like to have a dollar for every time I have heard someone say, "They ingested the substance themselves, so they must face the consequences of their horrible actions. No one else is to blame."

I ask you -- "Should blame really matter when it comes to saving a human life?"

God knows I eat too much of the wrong foods and cause myself to have high cholesterol and problems with diabetes. On top of that, I should exercise but don't. I know I should be more responsible for my own health problems, but I bet you don't judge me and other weighty individuals  the same way you do drug addicts.

Perhaps you smoke too much ... or you drink too much ... or you work too hard on a stressful job ... or you don't pay your child support and inflict suffering on your own ... or you gamble too much ... or you take dangerous, unneeded risks in life -- risks in relationships, in leisure activities, in texting while driving. Do you see where I'm going?

Blame is defined as "the state of being responsible for a fault or an error." To most of us, it all comes down to blame and who is at fault when there is a drug addiction. Many of us are willing to assign all blame to the addict. Period. Once we divorce ourselves of any responsibility to save that addict, we rest comfortably without any empathy.

See, when we consider something inherently "bad" like drug abuse, we have no problem judging blame. Yet, if a more commonly accepted thing becomes a problem -- a cigarette or a beer or a job or lottery tickets or even a pretty risky proposition -- then, most of us are more than willing to question just where the full responsibility lies.

Do I believe addicts should assume the major blame in their drug abuse? Absolutely. I think any clinician, medical professional, treatment professional, or counselor would say the same. Do I believe other things greatly influence who becomes addicted. Absolutely.

Even if blame for addiction could be established, it doesn't solve the problems that lie at the root of the population that must accept that blame. We can turn our backs on every addict who "made himself or herself sick," but we still must deal with the carnage that results. I am sure that addiction in the 21st century pays no heed to socioeconomic boundaries, no heed to boundaries of race, no heed to boundaries of gender, or no heed to boundaries of identity.

To me, the most tragic victims of drug abuse are young people. So many youngsters make bad decisions early in life and commit mistakes that leave permanent scars. They hobble themselves by taking drugs, and they acquire health problems, criminal records, broken families, and, for far too many, death certificates.

On behalf of CASAColumbia, QEV Analytics -- a national public opinion research firm -- conducted a nationally representative telephone-based survey of 1,003 teens, ages 12 to 17.

The survey found that 86% of American high school students said that some classmates drink, use drugs and smoke during the school day. Additionally, 44% of high school students knew a student who sold drugs at their school. Asked what drugs students sold on school grounds, 91% said marijuana, 24% said prescription drugs, 9% said cocaine and 7% said ecstasy.

The survey also revealed that 52% of high school students said that there was a place on school grounds or near school where students can go to use drugs, drink or smoke during the school day, and 36% said it was easy for students to use drugs, drink or smoke during the school day without getting caught.

75% of 12-to-17-year-olds said that seeing pictures of teens partying with alcohol or marijuana on Facebook, MySpace or another social networking site encouraged other teens to want to party like that. 45% of teens have seen pictures on social networking sites of other teens getting drunk, passed out or using drugs, and 47% of teens who have seen these pictures said that it seemed like the teens in the pictures were having a good time.

("National Survey on American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens." 
Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse: CASA. August 2012)

Drug use is a national health concern with potentially devastating consequences. Drug use turns into drug abuse, and drug abuse turns into drug dependency, and then drug dependency turns into drug addiction. We must address all of these issues if we expect to see a well-adjusted, physically and mentally fit future generation. If we wish to ignore the so-called "druggies," all of us in America will suffer with the consequences. 

On a personal level, the options are clear for everyone. Each one of us has to choose either to offer greater love for those in peril, no matter the personal risk, or to refuse to care for those we judge as refuse. So many lives are in the balance: Lives that can be saved.

How To Save a Life

By Fray

Step one, you say, We need to talk
He walks, you say, Sit down, it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through

Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all, you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence

Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And I pray to God he hears you

And where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed

He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he'll say he's just not the same
And you'll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong? I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

How to save a life
How to save a life

Songwriters:
King, Joseph / Slade, Isaac

YouTube Video, please click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rkBvhnri5s0



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