Getting the story straight – Drug addiction a health issue, not a criminal issue

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Across the world, drug addiction is one of the most violent and dangerous causes of death. In fact, in the US alone, mortality from drug overdose is the leading cause of death from injury, with opioids stacked as the most common choice of poison. Countries around the world have been trying desperately to fight the growing number of drug-related deaths, and yet it appears that, as one wall is overcome, another is built a few hundred metres ahead. The availability of drugs essentially fuels the demand for drugs, and as a result the epidemic is in a near-constant state of teetering between finding a way through the fog and falling down the next hole that comes up. As far as treatment facilities go, traditional addiction institutions have a low success rate, with addicts either not recovering at all or relapsing nearly immediately upon their release from the addiction treatment facility. However, new-age addiction treatments such as the Ibogaine treatment method at the Holistic Sanctuary are paving the way for higher success rates, healthier clients, and ground-breaking treatment methods. Even with these incredible innovations to the cause, there is much more to be done, and a long road to be paved before the epidemic ceases.

First and foremost, the misconception that drug addiction is a choice that is easily put to bed is incredibly damaging and frankly irresponsible. Individuals who suffer with addiction are at the mercy of the substance of their addiction. In short, addiction of any kind is essentially a chronic brain disease. In the case of drug addiction, this disease of the brain causes or at the very least increases significantly compulsive drug seeking and use, regardless of the consequences to the user themselves, as well as all those around them. Rather than treating drug addiction as a criminal offence, we should first and foremost be looking at it as a breach in health. The tragedy of drug addiction is that it swallows a person’s entire life, leaving them dependent on it and lost without it. It is a cruel, unyielding disease, and it is one that affects more people than we are perhaps comfortable admitting or realising.

The biggest problem in the face of the epidemic is society’s blatant refusal to accept or at least be open to discussing drug addiction. When all the possible channels (aside from treatment facilities, of course) for support and assistance are tainted with negative impressions and misinformation, the result is that addicts are often left out in the cold, feeling as though the problem does not matter to the whole and that they are alone in their disease. It is a heartbreaking realisation, but it is one that must be brought to attention if anything is to be done about it that can have profound, lasting impact. First and foremost, drug addiction destroys the life of the individual that is directly affected. Addicts become literally hooked on the feelings that are a result of the drug, or the substance itself, and once that addiction is kicked into high gear it is near impossible for many to break out of it and improve their lives.

Additionally, the loved ones of drug addicts are left broken and unsure where to even begin picking up the pieces. Friends pull away, unsure or unwilling to deal with the consequences of the disease their friend is battling. An addict’s entire life is changed. Getting the necessary help is a difficult step for some to take, and when they do get there, the battle wages on. Mindset is at the core of addiction as well as subsequent recovery; for addicts to be able to recover successfully, they must be in the right mindset to do so. an addict seeking help before they are ready nearly always results in quick relapse, built up resentment, and overriding impulse to fall back into old, unhealthy habits. Having a clear, sure mindset is essential to anyone actively seeking treatment.

Criminalising drug addiction is the core of the greater issue. When a disease is treated as though it is a crime, then victims and their suffering circles are left to deal with the explosive aftermath on their own and under public scrutiny. Yes, drug addicts have a responsibility to themselves just as we all do, and they make the initial choice to fall into drug use. The decision to turn to drugs is very rarely a choice made simply to “see what it is like”. Often times there are underlying root causes that lead to drug use, and the brain becomes hooked – this is when the disease takes over. Criminalising drug use makes sense in a lot of ways, but it also unfortunately does not solve the problem. Addicts should be given understanding, kindness, and viable options for recovery, but instead they are often given disrespect, disdain, and disgust. While addiction has been known to be more common in marginalised groups, no one is immune, and so acting as if drug addiction is beneath anyone is not only disgusting behaviour as a human being, but it is damaging as it results in addicts relying more on the one thing in their lives that is a constant source of support – even if that support is twisted.

Drug addiction is a health issue, and the treatment of it as a criminal act is frankly irresponsible. We cannot hope to demolish this harrowing global epidemic if we consistently look down on those who suffer at its hands and act as though drug addiction is a simple choice of deciding to quit. Drug addiction destroys lives, and the only viable way to combat it is to treat it as what it is: a breach in health, not a breach in character. Nobody is immune to drug addiction, and so understanding and willingness to assist those who suffer is vital to ensuring the future health and successes of those who recover. With any luck, the recovered percentage will continue to grow as the number of drug-related fatalities falls.

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