It’s difficult to find fundamental solutions when a problem is misunderstood as symptomatic of something else – the application of symptomatic solutions to perceived symptomatic problems leads in circles with no real resolution. Heroin, though it’s been around since at least 3400 BC, is still misunderstood. How can this be? Drug smugglers and dealers have a better grasp than our officials tasked with dealing with the heroin problem. They understand the fundamental nature of an addictive drug. They know that addicts come from all walks of life, and that once addicted will pretty much do anything to get the drug. When there’s a demand for a product there’ll eventually be supply. Government efforts to deal with addictive drugs have focused on supply, trying to stop the supply. A current Presidential candidate wants to solve the heroin problem by building a wall at the southern border. Heroin addiction is a not a problem that’s created by porous borders.
Fundamental solutions to heroin addiction, and addiction in general, will originate on the demand side. Prohibition ended in failure because the demand for alcohol overwhelmed restrictions on supply. It’s my sincere belief that if all the money now put in the War on Drugs were put into education, prevention and treatment, we’d be much further along in the development of fundamental solutions.
There are few real conversations taking place across the US that deal with fundamental solutions to the fundamental problems of addiction. Addiction is mainly misunderstood, especially heroin. Below is a list of myths and old ideas from www.alcoholrehab.com that don’t hold true with all addicts:
Drug Addicts Fit a Stereotype
The stereotypical drug addict is somebody who:
* Spends a great deal of time in alleyways in the bad side of town.
* Have legal problems and a criminal history.
* Steal from family and friends.
* An individual who wears dirty unkempt clothing and doesn’t invest much time into personal hygiene.
* They move from low paid job to low paid job or are more likely unemployable.
* Estranged from their family.
* Sad people who have nothing good in their life.
* Drug users are stereotypically under 40 years of age.
* Junkies have no ambition in life.
* They are usually homeless and live in derelict buildings with other junkies.
* They are unable to maintain a healthy romantic relationship.
* They are usually looked upon as a lowlife in their community.
The reality of drug users can differ greatly from the stereotype. Many substance abusers have a well maintained addiction. These are often individuals who:
* Never visit back alleyways in the seedier parts of town. The person supplying them with drugs may even be wearing a suit and working in an office.
* Have never had any legal problems or be on the police radar.
* Most addicts have never needed to steal money from family and friends.
* They may wear expensive clothing and be perfectly groomed.
* They may have a successful career and by highly respected by their peers.
* Many addicts are loved and cherished by their family and friends.
* They can appear at least outwardly happy and be extremely positive about the future.
* Drug addicts can be of any age. There are an increasing number of elderly people who are abusing drugs – it has even been referred to as a hidden epidemic.
* These individuals can be highly ambitions and driven people.
* They may live in a big expensive house.
* They can have a loving partner
* Many addicts are highly respected in their community. Most of the people who know them would not even guess that they had even tried recreational drugs.
The stereotypical image of the drug addict can have negative implications. It makes it easier for people to hide their substance abuse problems. They can kid themselves that so long as they do not fit the stereotype they do not really have a problem.
Understanding the problem as one that can affect anyone, forces the realization that it can be a brother, a daughter, yourself, a next door neighbor, a boss, a physician, etc. Education and prevention entail deep understanding and a change of mind regarding mood-altering drugs. It takes addiction away from moral judgment to a place where reason, understanding and choices play a larger role. Maybe kids should understand that they don’t have to drink alcohol or smoke pot when they grow up, that a life of abstinence is a good choice. It also means that just because someone chooses to use drugs, it doesn’t make them a terrible, immoral, weak person. If someone develops an addiction problem, it’s a medical concern that will respond to treatment. Once we take the mystery and the myths away, we can rationally, intelligently and objectively search for and find fundamental solutions. Heroin seems like a new, scary problem, but heroin addiction is an old problem – is the same as painkiller addiction to an opioid — both can happen to anyone — both are treatable.