Shouldn’t we have empathy for Addicts? I should have empathy for them but sometimes I can’t find it in me. I have known enough of them in family, friends and patients to say the hell with them. But then on the other hand they are people too. Many addicts are cunning, creative and manipulative liars. Its staggering to see the level of creative deception that some will do to get money. Mind boggling what lies, some will create to play out a kind person who is trying to help them. They should be playwrights in theatrical dramas or Who Done Its or Mystery Novels. Its hard to believe that someone using drugs with all their disorganized thought processes, can come up with the fantastic creative well prepared lies!
Have I been played out by an Addict?
The answer is YES, I HAVE. My ex girlfriend stole all my family air looms; jewelry, watches, precious gems and furs which totaled in over $100,000.00 loss if we were going to replace these. She even stole my 7 year old daughter’s jewelry and her Civil War Silver Dollars. She carefully and slowly over time methodically scraped us thin. To make a long story short, she was caught and confessed. Then was charged and pled guilty to take a lesser plea bargain agreement. Then I heard she had violated her probation to have more years tacked on. We never got the stolen items back because it was all pawned. The pawn broker who was found through a private detective had immediately gotten rid of the loot that he knew was stolen, and converted goods for cash. So NO I don’t have as much empathy for addicts, as I should. I don’t hate on them either. Because not all of them steal. But they do all lie and will turn your life into a living hell.
The ones who want to get clean and sober, do so.
Shouldn’t we have empathy for Addicts? The others, who get clean and some relapse, but I don’t know what the percentage is for those addicts who get off drugs versus staying off. Some statistics state that within the first year 40 to 60% of addicts relapse. The study compared itself diabetics who relapse using sugar products. I don’t think addiction relapse is quite the same as a diabetic eating milk chocolate. I have not seen to many diabetics turning tricks prostituting to get that Hershey Chocolate bar. I have not seen to many diabetics stealing goods to get money for the Hershey Bar.
Addiction is not a disease
Chalkboard with the word ADDICTION written with an eraser
Shouldn’t we have empathy for Addicts? In fact, I don’t see addiction as a disease period and point blank. How can so many people have a disease? I think addiction can lead to disease, but in itself is not a disease. Government wants to call it a disease to justify all the millions of dollars issued for Federal Grants. The detox and rehabs need addiction classified as a disease so that insurances and Medicaid can be billed for rendering treatment. Addicts lie, manipulate, commit crimes of assault, burglary, child abuse, robbery, motor vehicle theft, shoplifting, prostituting. How can these behaviors of addiction be called a disease?
I have concluded that many Drug detox and rehabs aren’t successful. I base this on my personal field experience during graduate school. I did a one year nursing case management project in Camden, New Jersey. I case managed 68 homeless addicts living in a “Tent City”. I sought to help them get services from providers for dental, medical, mental health and substance abuse. Two thirds of this population volunteered that they had been detox and rehab multiple times. I understand that I lack evidence to support my statement so let it go at that. The detox and rehabs costs a lot of money but fail to keep a lot those who attend treatment off drugs.
According to the Bureau of Justice more than 18% of those in state prisons and 17% incarcerated in federal prisons committed their crimes to get money for drugs. In addition to this 26% of violent crimes were committed by someone who was using drugs or alcohol at the time they committed the crime.
Crimes like robbery, theft, fraud, and even rape and murder are committed (in a large percentage) but those under the influence of drugs.
I don’t think that addicts turning to crime to fuel their habiits is anything particularly new. I do think that law enforcement is now paying attention to possible addiction as a motivator behind why a person commits a crime. I don’t still don’t see how addiction can be classified as a disease?
Opioid Subculture is Sustainable. Every 11 minutes someone is dying from an opioid overdose but none of that deters addicts from using. People have difficulty accepting that the Opioid addiction is a chronic relapsing disease. Those that are actively using opioids live within a sustainable subculture, which revolves around foraging for money to buy drugs, cigarettes and maybe some food. I can tell you with great certainty, that no opioid addict will enter into treatment until they are ready to do so. Many addicts have already tried multiple treatment modalities from Detox, Inpatient rehab, Intensive Outpatient, Methadone, Suboxone, Subutex and the Vivitrol Injection. Many have gotten sober and relapsed to go back to using opioids. Some who relapsed have returned to sobriety and others continued with the addiction.
The single biggest reason America is failing in its response to opioid epidemic:
Adapting To The Mainstream Life
Opioid Subculture is Sustainable. I like to refer to the social environment that we non-addicts live in as the mainstream life. In the mainstream, we go to our job, pay for our housing, bills and come home after work to take care of our children. To be successful in the mainstream lifestyle did not happen overnight and to stay stable within it requires us to practice diligence. Some of use may have a job, a trade or a profession with economic growth and advancement. We may have started at age 18 or later at 22 after attending college.
For most people who are getting clean and sober, they will experience varying degrees of difficulty navigating into the mainstream life. Its not impossible to enter into the mainstream and it is certainly doable, if they have some measure of support. I fervently believe a good support mentor is crucial to anyone coming away from addiction into recovery.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
Opioid Subculture is Sustainable. One of my greatest criticisms of drug rehabilitation is how do they negotiate to getting the basic needs met in the mainstream life? Where are they going to live? How is the rent and the basics going to be paid? How will they find a job? What if they have felony records and active warrants? In thinking about Maslow’s Hierarchy, beginning with Physiological Needs – a person will need suitable shelter, water, food, sleep and clothing. Safety needs – personal security, employment, resources, health and property. Love and Belonging – friendship, family, sexual intimacy.
Why Opioid Addicts Resist Getting Clean
If the recovering addict doesn’t have the support from family and friends, to assist with the basics, then how do they successful achieve the Physiological Needs? If they go live in the shelter, will this provide that person with a suitable atmosphere to stay clean? It is easy to see why so many opioid addicts fail at recovery and resist getting clean, when they know what works for them. They know that for the past years, they have been successful at foraging for money to buy drugs, cigarettes, food, while living as an urban survivalist. Society as a whole is talking about the Opioid Epidemic because we feel a sense of morality to fix it. The overdose deaths is the reason why society wants to address the Opioid Epidemic. The deaths are the reason why its called an Opioid Epidemic. We can learn the most from the ones who are successful at overcoming opioid addiction and remaining in recovery.
I believe that many opioid addicts accept their plight in life. They lack the family and friends to provide emotional support. This is the reason why most addicts are resistant to go into treatment. They know that entering into mainstream life will be an uphill battle or a vertical climb. Its easier to just stay put surviving and foraging within a sustainable drug subculture. Perhaps for some, the drug subculture offers them a feeling of safety with a predictable lifestyle.
Afghan Opium Production
Bumper Crop of Opioid Overdoses. Across the United States for opioid addicts there is a bumper crop of overdoses. An opioid overdose occurs every 11 minutes, which translates into 5 an hour, 120 a day, 840 a week, 3,600 a month and 43,200 a year.
These statistics are alarming to us, but they are not a deterrence to the addicts. The surgeon general advised that civilians should carry naloxone to resuscitate a victim. Here is the hard and fast truth about opioid addicts. No one can make them quit using opioids until they are ready to do. If they are locked up in the jail, by default they will get clean. If they are released, the vast majority will go right back to using opioids again.
The Addicts Lifestyle Is Sustainable
Bumper Crop of Opioid Overdoses. I hear people say that addicts have to hit rock bottom to realize that they need help and that may be true for some addicts. But I can tell you, the ones I have seen roaming around in Camden New Jersey and the Kensington Section of Philadelphia, look like rock bottom was last year. As non-addicts we look at an addicts life and find very hard to understand why they don’t want to quit using opioids and get clean? We think that their lifestyle is lousy but to them it is perfectly sustainable. In most cities, there are shelters, homeless kitchens and even locations to get free clothing and a coat. These people are true urban survivalist. Some live on the streets, but others live in tents under bridges or overpasses. Some are squatting in abandoned buildings. Females may meet up with a Pimp and live with that person. She might work the street or do online escort work. The pimp furnishes the drugs, food, cigarettes and housing. The men coming to pick up the girls to get it done in the car, or a motel. Some other addicts are shoplifting and then try to sell whatever was stolen. Others are panhandling for money on the street corner. Still others are burglarizing homes in suburbia and pawn off what was stolen.
It might seem very hard to believe that an addict’s lifestyle is completely sustainable because they live in their own subculture. They forage all day long to scope out the who, what, when, where and how they are going to get the money to buy a bag. Some help one another with a bag or half a bag of dope. They sell each other loosies (loose cigarettes). They don’t usually go anywhere because they are tethered to wherever they getting the drugs. Some do actually live in the private residences with their family. Some go see their children on the weekends.
Just because it is sustainable, opioids is a cruel addiction because the longer they are on the drug, the more they need. The longer they use it, the less pleasurable is the effect. Some addicts tell me that they don’t get high. They use to just feel right and I am not certain exactly what that means other then not feeling sick. If they do not use soon, they get stressed and irritable. A lot of addicts prefer the heroin cut with Fentanyl because its makes them very high.
Its a vicious cycle of hell because the more they use, the more the brain adapts to opioids and the more they need. So these people just keep on using opioids and performing the necessary steps to keep up with their addiction. I have often said that addicts are not lazy, because they have to work at their addiction much like we do a regular job. It takes a lot diligence to be a successful addict.
Opioid Addiction Can Make Some People Do Most Anything
Bumper Crop of Opioid Overdoses. If they cannot buy the drug, then they eventually experience the very worst flu of their life. The whole effect will come crashing inward with chills, shakes, cramps, irritability, depression, anxiety, vomiting, and diarrhea. People say they feel like their skin is crawling. An opioid withdrawal can happen like nothing they have ever experienced. I hate when I am sick with a flu virus, which causes nausea and vomiting. It is perfectly understandable why people become desperate and solely focused on getting right to avoid the opioid withdraw.
I had a girlfriend who was a Nurse. She was a beautiful, bright, energetic woman with a kind heart or so I thought. She lived with me and outwardly, I never knew at first she was an opioid addict. By the time, I found out it was to late, because she had stolen and pawned off every bit precious things I had. I did finally entrap her over the telephone. I told her that I had installed cameras and recorded her stealing things from my home. She fessed up and I still charged her. The police arrested her and the case went to pretrial mitigation. She went on felony probation. Yes, I ended the relationship.
I felt like if I did not charge my ex girlfriend, that she might not ever stop using opioids. Her family had said via email that she was on methadone. I later heard that she relapsed and violated probation, which added on more years. She stole in the vicinity of $80,000 of belongings from me and my 10 year old daughter. I am a single parent and some of the things that were left to my daughter by my wife who died from ALS and my Mom. It was really hurtful. When someone you love, does that to you its a real violation of ethical and moral trust. I was emotionally hurt for a long time. I was more sad about her stealing from us, then the loss of the things.
Disease Versus Choice
Bumper Crop of Opioid Overdoses. Did you know that the Addiction Treatment Business, is almost a $40 Billion Dollar a year business? That is how much money is coming into the addiction treatment centers in the United States. Now of course the addiction centers support that addiction is a disease. If it was not a disease, there would be no monetary reimbursements from insurance. Classifying addiction as a disease legitimizes billing out for the services rendered and the federal grants that go to the not-for-for profit centers. Regardless if addiction is a choice or a disease, one undeniable fact is that no one can make an addict quit using drugs until they are ready to get help. I am a Registered Nurse and I have worked with plenty of addicts. I am caught in the middle as to whether addiction is a choice or a disease. I really don’t know if it is a disease or a choice. I do know that addiction does lead to other diseases.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse “No matter how they ingest the drug, chronic heroin users experience a variety of medical complications, including insomnia and constipation. Lung complications (including various types of pneumonia and tuberculosis) may result from the poor health of the user as well as from heroin’s effect of depressing respiration. Many experience mental disorders, such as depression and antisocial personality disorder. Men often experience sexual dysfunction and women’s menstrual cycles often become irregular. There are also specific consequences associated with different routes of administration. For example, people who repeatedly snort heroin can damage the mucosal tissues in their noses as well as perforate the nasal septum (the tissue that separates the nasal passages).
Medical consequences of chronic injection use include scarred and/or collapsed veins, bacterial infections of the blood vessels and heart valves, abscesses (boils), and other soft-tissue infections. Many of the additives in street heroin may include substances that do not readily dissolve and result in clogging the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, liver, kidneys, or brain. This can cause infection or even death of small patches of cells in vital organs. Immune reactions to these or other contaminants can cause arthritis or other rheumatologic problems.
What are the medical complications of chronic heroin use?
Addicts are Masters of Manipulation
An addict is a master of manipulation. If you ever confronted with the dilemma of whether you should help out an addict with money? My response is a resounding NO. Don’t ever give them money, even they threaten to let a group of men run a train on them for 20 dollars. The reason is because the asking for more money will not ever stop. Don’t enable an addict by giving them money. They are manipulative masters at trying to guilt you into believing they are going to kill themselves. If they threaten suicide, pick up the phone, dial 911 for the police. They will be taken by EMS to the local psychiatric crisis center for evaluation. Better to be safe then sorry. Someone at the psychiatric crisis unit may be be able to influence them to enter detox and rehab.
If you have a friend or loved one who is opioid addicted, chances are they might steal right out from underneath your nose to pawn off anything for money. You might have a daughter, sister, or girlfriend who is threatening to go prostitute on the street or become an escort. Let them go and don’t give them money. If you start giving money, then you are creating a perfect storm for the day that you are pull back the enabling. Your loved one or friend will become Michael Myers from the horror movie Halloween and rip you a new one with nasty and filthy language like you can’t believe.
If you are struggling with dealing with an Addict there is help available:
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
Addiction is a chronic disorder where relapse is common for addicts who are in recovery. Every addiction case is separate and distinct. For some sobriety can occur within a few months and while others struggle for more then 20 years.
In the Vietnam war, there was a widespread epidemic of marines and soldiers who were addicted to heroin. The federal government fearing the worst that military personnel would be returning to the United States from war as addicted veterans, mandated that no one could return home without a clean urine drug screen. Those that failed the urine drug screen stayed in Vietnam until they were clean and had a negative urine drug screen. The Vietnam war is significant, because this was the first evidence that people addicted to heroin (opioids) could get clean and sober without drug treatment because none was offered.
Hold Their Feet To The Fire
Bumper Crop of Opioid Overdoses. Do you really want to struggle with an addicts addiction until it destroys your health and wellbeing? Don’t feel sorry for these people so much so that your own mental and physical health is affected. If they come asking for help, then by all means assist them if you can. If they are playing you out then send them out the door. If they refuse to leave, then call the police. Dealing with an addict can wreck your life. Don’t let their addiction destroy your mental and physical wellbeing.
As you have read earlier, the marines and soldiers in the Vietnam War overcame opioid addiction with no treatment. Fortunately today there is treatment available such as Methadone, Suboxone, Subutex, Vivitrol Injection, 5 to 7 day detox, inpatient rehabilitation and outpatient. Help is available if the person is committed to get clean and sober. A person with an opioid addiction must have a burning desire to get off the drugs.
Check out our website: www.HTRSD.ORG
Understanding Addiction: https://htrsd.org/courses/understanding-addiction-new/
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