Letter: Battling Addiction

Thank you to everyone who dedicated their time to the drug roundtable at the Garrison School (In Drug Epidemic, Looking for Answers, March 31). Like many, I left with lots of thoughts and emotions.

There was a lengthy discussion regarding statistics. I realize that statistics can be a useful tool, but many of us don’t need statistics — we are the family members or friends of those who have been lost to addiction. When you hear something like, people diagnosed with breast cancer have a survival rate of 85 percent, you can feel hopeful unless you become part of the 15 percent. Then you don’t care about statistics anymore.

Just like cancer, we need to realize that what we are talking about a disease.  Like cancer, we can do lots of things to prevent it. Mike Williams, the guidance counselor at the Garrison School, provided some excellent tips. Start with searchinstititute.org and check out the 40 developmental assets and ways to implement them. Also, check out the article about how Iceland adopted a dramatic social policy that drastically lowered the country’s alarming addiction rate.

Recognize that just like eating healthy, exercising and avoiding direct UV rays lessens the risk of cancer, even if we do all the positive preventative measures to combat addiction, there is still a chance the disease can occur in a loved one. We want to believe that if we coach the soccer team, talk to our kids about the dangers of bad choices and eat dinner together most nights, this won’t happen to us. There’s no guarantee. Many of us made poor choices as teens and young adults. If we did not become addicted, we can count ourselves lucky. It was not because we were “good” or “smarter.”

The same is true for our children, although today’s drugs are much more potent and the window for “luck” is much smaller. When you think about the families of those who lost a son or daughter to addiction or have a child battling it, realize that there probably wasn’t any lack of caring that got them there. When we hear of a child with cancer, we don’t say, “Oh, I bet the parents fed him junk food.” Let’s not do that to the families of those who are fighting or fought with addiction, or to the individuals themselves.

If we want to “win” the battle on the disease of addiction and increase survival rates, we need to continue our best efforts for prevention, even when it feels futile, and find better treatment options for those who do become addicted.

Lisa Scicluna, Cold Spring

One thought on “Letter: Battling Addiction

  1. Drug addiction and alcoholism are not moral weaknesses, they are a disease of the mind, body and spirit. I know it’s not popular to say that, but having dealt with the horrors in my own family, I can attest to the truth that there is a genetic component. Children of alcoholics are especially at risk. Studies show that they have a 50-50 chance of becoming addicted. Of course there are other factors, but it is certainly something to be considered.

    Speaking of treatment, I wonder why they ever closed the detox center that used to be at Putnam Hospital. Many lives were saved at that facility and there is really nothing else nearby that took its place. Maybe our elected officials can use some of the money from the War on Drugs to bring back a detox that was on the forefront of helping the sickest of Putnam’s addicts and alcoholics when they were at death’s door.