Prevention-based programs help address addiction
There is a popular misconception in our society that addiction is a form of weakness and that stopping, or even cutting down on one’s use, is a matter of “mind over matter.” If this were actually true, then we would have far fewer people suffering every day from a disease that is chronic, progressive and fatal.
In 2017, substance use disorders killed nearly 200 people daily in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This uptick in deaths over the last decade can be attributed to opioid addiction and the addition of fentanyl into the lethal doses of heroin that are being sold across the country.
What is often overlooked is the number of deaths in America related to alcohol use. It too is a major contributor to the myriad of health, social and economic ills facing our country today.
It goes without saying that addiction, whether it be to a substance or behavior, can be very difficult to manage. There has been more research on the brain and addiction than ever before. What it has demonstrated is that those who live with substance use disorders have a brain physiology that differs from those in the general population. So, can you blame someone who is addicted for something that is part of their physical makeup? Or that addiction is a “choice.” I don’t believe that anyone wants, or chooses, to be an addict.
What is needed is a better understanding of the nature of addiction, including the signs, symptoms and risk factors associated with this chronic condition. There are many prevention-based programs that can help. One such local resource, directed at young people ages 13-26, is Just Tell One (justtellone.org). The website provides tools for young people to consider when finding a trusted adult to talk to.
Another international program that is offered locally is Mental Health First Aid. (MHFA) Not only does this program teach about mental health and substance use disorders, it also provides a five-step action plan.
One crucial element in addressing the stigma around addiction emphasized in the MHFA program is that of empathy. When we are able to empathize with those who are addicted and try to understand the true nature of their disease, then maybe we can help them to address their issue in a nonjudgmental way.
The reality is that “just trying harder” doesn’t always cut it. There are so many factors that contribute to addiction (genetics, environment, trauma, etc.) that we cannot simply minimize what it takes to address an issue that often has been years in the making. However, with the appropriate response and resources recovery and a better life is possible. The editorials on this page represent the opinion of The Buffalo News editorial board. Members are Publisher and President Warren T. Colville; Editor Michael K. Connelly; Editorial Page Editor Kevin S. Walter; and editorial writers Dawn Marie Bracely and Greg Connors.