Opinion: Addicts are people too

By Joshua Burciaga

Far too many people have been misinformed when it comes to drug addiction, mental illness and homelessness, which makes helping these individuals all the more difficult.

Alicia Cook, a freelance writer taught me that drugs can bring out the worst in us.

“They call them ‘trash,’ ‘junkies’ or ‘criminals,’ which is hardly ever the truth. Addiction is an illness. Addicts have families and aspirations,” Cook said.

People need to understand that when your drug induced loved one physically or verbally lashes out, it’s not them, it’s the drug addict.

It’s not them stealing money from your wallet or your mother’s purse, it’s the drug addict.

And when your loved one dies of an overdose or is sentenced to prison, it’s not the drug addict, it’s the person you love.

Drug addiction is both a cause and a byproduct of homelessness and mental illness

Homelessness, mental illness, and drug addiction has been an issue that’s been ignored for too long.

According to a study by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Mental Health By The Numbers, the research indicates that about 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. suffers from a mental disorder.

The publication states that an estimated 7 out of 10 homeless adults living in shelters across the U.S. suffer from a mental illness.

Unfortunately, my eldest sister fits into both sub-categories.

The loved one I hold dear has exhibited signs of mental illness at a young age but was never properly diagnosed.

I argue that her mental disorder was the main cause for her drug abuse, which led her to become homeless.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse study, Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Disorders, found people with a mental disorder are twice as likely to abuse drugs.

My sister was living a fairly successful life with a house, job and wife to call her own despite her mental disorder.

But she began to lose her footing when she made the fatal decision to abuse meth.

She finalized her downfall into homelessness, unemployment, and divorce by continuing down this path. She burnt out every social connection she needed to keep her afloat.

We fail to understand that individuals hooked on drugs only focus on how they’re going to get their next fix.

Holding a job, paying bills, and feeding yourself is the last thing on a drug addict’s mind.

Still, people continue to think drug addicts on the streets are lazy bums who don’t want to achieve anything.

Some still believe drug addicts  drug abuse is a personal choice instead of a public health issue.

Activist Abbie Hoffman put it bluntly, “The simplistic ‘Just Say No’ to drugs campaign is a little bit like telling a manic-depressive to just cheer up, she said.

Even the criminal justice system is susceptible to this attitude, just compare sentencing guidelines for drug possession and drunk driving.

A DUI could result in a punishment of up to six months in prison, whereas drug possession could result in imprisonment ranging from two to twenty years.

Drug addicts don’t belong in prison they should be admitted into rehab instead of being left out in the streets.

By helping my sister back on her feet I’ve noticed how social stigmas towards drug addicts do nothing to help them.

Biases such as these only cause drug addicts to relapse.

Hopefully we will change the way we view and treat drug addicts. This will be the first step in ending this drug epidemic.

3 responses to “Opinion: Addicts are people too

    • I’m sorry you had to go through such a traumatic event, but I hope that personal experiences such as yours help others in realizing that our criminal justice system is flawed and is in dire need of a major revision, and that our sentencing guidelines are unjust and counter-intuitive. I don’t know you personally, but I appreciate that you’re comfortable enough to share your story with us; it helps me in re-evaluating our court systems and it reminds others who have gone through similar hardships that they are not alone. Thank you. Sorry for the late reply, but I’ve been preoccupied with school and work. I hope you understand.

      Joshua Burciaga
      Viewpoints Reporter

      • Thank you for responding I appreciate your input.
        I hope to help others.
        Right now I do feel alone. I don’t even know where to start with filing a complaint, do I start a petition? It feels so chaotic since it’s unknown territory. But I’m not willing to just let it go, I’ll figure it out. So hopefully this brings people together to help support each other, and share their experiences too.

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