How we view those struggling with addition must change or it’s only going to get worse. A story out of East Liverpool, Ohio shows all that is wrong with how we handle substance abuse and addiction in America.
So, the back story. Police responded to an incapacitated driver, identified as James Acord. They say in the report that his head was bobbing and speech was unintelligible prior to him passing out. He told the police that he was taking his passenger, Rhonda Pasek, to the hospital. She was already passed out and turning blue in the passenger seat. In the backseat, a four-year-old boy sat, witnessing his mother near death.
Obviously, that situation in and of itself is horrific. The danger posed to the public and to that small child in a vehicle with two overdosing people driving down the street is grave. That poor little boy’s sweet face, the pain and suffering he has witnessed, the neglect he has likely felt – none of this shouldn’t be happening.
But it is. And, it needs addressed with some REAL solutions. Solutions that are not going be made possible through shaming addicts via the city’s Facebook page. Yet, that is the course of action that followed.
Yesterday, the city of East Liverpool thought they could make addicts “think twice” about injecting themselves with drugs with their children present.
We feel it necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug. We feel we need to be a voice for the children caught up in this horrible mess. This child can’t speak for himself but we are hopeful his story can convince another user to think twice about injecting this poison while having a child in their custody.”
Because, clearly, that’s how someone’s mind works when addicted to physical and mind altering drugs. The whole post can be read here:
I can’t help but wonder, if these same police pulled up to a car with someone dying of cancer as the driver, would they post photos of the incapacitated body laying in the seat of the car in effort to prevent cancer? It would be nearly as effective as these photos will be in decreasing addiction. While the entire incident is heartbreaking, shame will not do a single thing to remedy the problem, nor will incarceration.
Of course, many of the commenters on the post were sure they had the answer – let them die. Don’t give Narcan (naloxone) to save their lives.
Then there were the calls for their executions.
This guy has a brilliant idea of just shipping people to some kind of magical island, because we’ve never done anything like that before. . .
And, some just hoped for suffering and torment. Don’t worry guys, suffering is PART of addiction – congrats, you got your wish.
What these people fail to realize is addiction is very much a disease. The National Institute on Drug Abuse cites risk factors that often lead to drug addiction. Those include biology, environment, and development. They say about biology:
The genes that people are born with account for about half of a person’s risk for addiction. Gender, ethnicity, and the presence of other mental disorders may also influence risk for drug use and addiction.”
The Institute also mentions something that anyone who has watched A&E’s Intervention knows: Tragic events in a person’s life can lead to drug addiction.
Look, we have no idea what these two people experienced in their lives that resulted in their overdose in a car on the side of a road, with a four-year-old in the backseat. We have no idea if tragedy placed them on a path that snowballed into THIS tragedy. We have no idea if untreated mental illness drove them to self-medicate. Perhaps it was physical disease that caused great pain and this addiction grew out of in an addiction to opioid pain medications. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. . .
The point is, we don’t know their story.
I can nearly guarantee one thing, though. Their story likely isn’t one of “just” being morally bankrupt with no self-control or willpower. You know, the idea promoted in the “Just Say No” campaign we all grew up with. It’s time to stop with that stigma and start practicing compassion.
This isn’t a criminal issue – this is a healthcare issue. These diseases require treatment, not incarceration. Shame and judgment may make those on their high horses feel superior, but they certainly aren’t helping fix the cause of the epidemic.
Featured image via Facebook