Road to heroin addiction has numerous on-ramps

So what is it that makes people get into heroin? Is it just desperation? Is it just another bad decision coming from a life of terror or boredom? Is it possible that there is a gene that predisposes certain individuals to various addictions?

Certainly, most of us understand that people who get hooked are facing very difficult lives. Some can kick the habit but many others can’t so they steal, lie and cheat to keep the endless cycle of addiction going.

Some people spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on therapy. Many others, however, have fallen for the lure of this killer drug and it is hard to explain why we are facing such an epidemic. We can of course, follow a standard therapeutic model otherwise known as a “one off.”

It is tempting to think of this as an individual choice and it certainly is that. On the other hand, it is an epidemic, a sociological and political phenomenon that has eaten away at the fabric of our society, killing children and grandchildren.

It is a theoretical possibility that as the distance between the haves and the have-nots grows greater, people will give up on their own potential and fall down the addiction hole from which there is no emerging. Of course, there are some very well-heeled individuals with good jobs, good possibilities and everything to look forward to who have the monkey on their backs.

Things got bad in my hometown. It took a very courageous district attorney, David Capeless, to do the right thing and close down the drug trade in what the Smithsonian called the “best small town in America.”

You have to be eternally vigilant, otherwise the scourge will just reappear. In some towns and villages the money that is to be made from heroin involves prosecutors and police who see easy pickings. That’s why confiscated drugs need to be monitored and accounted for lest they be sold, leading to the age-old question, “Why would we pay law enforcement personnel to be crooks?”

The real question will continue to be why people get into heroin in the first place. There are a thousand excuses that one can use to blame their descent into drug hell.

I just read a book by a guy who had back problems and he said that he took the drug in order to alleviate the pain.

I’ve had to live with a lot of back pain and the thought of putting any of that stuff into me is so horrible and off putting that I would never go there.

But indeed, the path to addiction often begins with an injury, for which a doctor prescribes opioids, such as oxycodone or percoset, to control pain. The problem is, the patient often becomes dependent on the high produced by those powerful meds, and turns to the streets once the prescription runs out.

And on the streets, where opioids have become expensive and hard to come by, heroin becomes an attractive alternative.

We have spent enormous amounts of time and resources to treat users and slow the scourge of drug addiction. Some of the potential answers include the dispensing of Methadone and other substitute drugs.

What goes around comes around. We’ve seen all of this before. But that does not get to the root problem or answer the question as to why people would risk destroying their lives with drug addiction.

We need to keep closing down drug operations but that hardly gets to the base of the problem, either. Ironically, the criminal justice problem is served by drug dealers who drop the dime on their competitors.

I could offer the solution that we spent more time and money on preventative programs and therapists like the great people at the Brien Center with particular thanks to Dr. Jennifer Michaels who is one hell of an amazing doctor. No matter what, we’d better get busy.

Originally published in the Berkshire Eagle, 3/14/15

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