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It was recently bothersome to overhear a young group of individuals, engaged in treatment, talking about their addiction. One patient had said to another they don’t want to stop using drugs and alcohol because their addicted life has not been a bad life. There has never been a consequence to their use other than the occasional grounding and limitations on the family car.
Addiction is not something that is taboo to me, as I have been living with it my entire adult life. At eighteen vocabulary such as stamp bag, syringe, detoxification, and rehabilitation were all common staples in my daily language, yet this particular conversation left me bothered and confused. Television shows, such as intervention, depict addiction as lonely and secluded. Often times the addict is in the worst physical shape of their life, living on the streets, facing jail time among many other things such as diseases, like Hepatitis C and HIV. Some may call this “rock bottom”. However, what about the new age addict feeding their habit discretely off of mom and dad’s money, living under their roof, not surrendering to much of a consequence to this deadly disease. This leaves me wondering, is there such a thing as “rock bottom” for this sample of people. . . or could their first consequence end up being their last?
The term “rock bottom” was created in the 1880’s in retrospect to bartering, in order to describe prices “at their lowest possible limit or level”, hence how the term could have come to describe one suffering from substance abuse. At this time in the 1880’s the population addicted to drugs and alcohol were mostly civil war veterans medicating their wounds, or self medication what we would later call post traumatic stress disorder. Heroin was not created until the early 1900’s when addiction affected nearly 2% of all Americans. One century later and five times that many Americans suffer from addiction. Case in point, as you read this think of five of your closest friends and family. Got them? Statistically, one of them is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. With the disease overcoming this person’s brain, making it the only thing they are able to think of, what do you think it would take to get the brain to stop? A run in with the law? Jail time? Losing their family? Losing their housing? I can tell you from my own personal experience, even with all of those factors in the equation; only about half of all users seeking treatment (10% of the addicted population, which is a story in itself!) will discontinue their addiction after suffering one or all of the aforementioned consequences.
With that said, what if the one you’re thinking of has never had a consequence to their bad behavior? We see small children on TV all the time who do not behave correctly, because they are not correctly reprimanded. While the conversation I heard shakes me to the core, I can understand how this new generation of users thinks. It’s human nature, as they say, why fix something that isn’t broken. The scariest part is what happens when what is broken can’t be fixed? With heroin and opiate purity increasing by the day one dose could be the difference between life and death.
I wish for anyone to take away this message. If you wait for rock bottom to come and save you, it’s in my belief you will be waiting an eternity. If the conversation of these patients has ever crossed your mind, think of a consequence you might not see. Your family in upset, arguing on the best way to treat you, your parents breaking into their retirement fund to get you the best help money can buy, your younger sister crying herself to sleep at night because she can’t imagine a world without you. . . and perhaps continuing to cry herself to sleep for the rest of her life when the world loses you.
Don’t wait for rock bottom, whatever it may be to you. Addiction can be stopped. With state of the art medicines like Suboxone and Vivitrol, we have a way to control the overwhelming cravings. Once the brain is under control, heavy counseling and individualized care from people that know your pain can help release you from your addictions. Don’t wait till it’s too late.
Abbie E. Scanio-Garrighan