On October 17th a number of agencies came together to hold the community’s first “Prescription Drug Round Up.” The event, in response to a growing prescription drug abuse problem in the community, was held at 5 sites in Reno and Sparks and invited anyone to bring in prescription and over the counter drugs to one of our sites.
Since the 1940s, our knowledge about what is safe and unsafe for anunborn child has increased exponentially. We’ve known for a long time that pregnant women shouldn’t smoke cigarettes at all. And the standard for drinking is, “There are no safe levels of alcohol during pregnancy.”
Most of us think that people who struggle with alcohol and/or other drugs can just fix themselves. But that is not the case any more than a diabetic can will herself to become non diabetic. Part of the thinking that addicted people can fix themselves lies in the belief that they brought it on themselves, as well.
Everyone has been exposed to alcoholism and/or drug addiction through a family member, friend, co-worker, or neighbor. Because of that, everyone has experiences, thoughts, and usually opinions about the issue. Probably the most common response I get is, “Isn’t it true that a person has to really want it in order to get better?” Of course, that’s not really a question as much as it is a declarative statement. Then the “you-have-to-want-it-to-get-better” comment is followed up with something like, “I have an uncle that’s been to treatment six times and he’s still drinking and using drugs. He just isn’t motivated.”
These comments and questions are all understandable because each person that has an experience with someone else’s addiction has often had a heartbreaking and emotionally painful time with that person.
What’s so funny about a drunk person in any situation? Is it that we enjoy someone else acting a fool? Is it that we enjoy seeing someone falling down, getting up and then falling down again? Is it we think that if a person is foolish enough to be in that condition they deserve to be the object of laughter and scorn? Or maybe we just chalk it up to a good time and wish we could be doing what that person is doing.
What do you think it’s like growing up in a home in which one or both parents have an alcohol or other drug problem? These are homes that may look fine from an outsider’s perspective but for those children living in it that home can be a living inferno.
I remember when I was about 10 years old, I tried to buy some airplane glue from a local hobby shop in Sacramento, where I grew up. “You have to have your mom or dad’s permission,” said the clerk. I couldn’t figure out what that was all about. It wasn’t like I was trying to buy cigarettes or beer. But it turns out that even back in 1964 we knew that there were some things that don’t seem like drugs that could have dangerous effects when not used as intended.
What does substance abuse prevention really mean? What are we trying to prevent? The most obvious answer is that we are trying to prevent first use of a chemical substance. In fact, that’s a great goal. But then does that mean we forget about the kids that have already tried something? And why do we care about preventing some 14 year old kid from trying beer or marijuana? After all you might say, “I did that and I turned out just fine.”
As I look back on my career I think about some of the “drug epidemics” America has gone through. Some of these include heroin in the 1960s and 70s, LSD in the 70s, cocaine in the 80s, and more recently, methamphetamines. These are all drug trends that the media and popular culture have used to send shock waves through our collective consciousness by showing graphic details of illicit drug use, crime, babies affected by mother’s drug use while pregnant, and more.
Today, we still face challenges with all of the drugs I’ve named. But as we speak, a “new” trend is coming upon us and it’s one that at first glance doesn’t look so threatening. That is, the illicit use and abuse of prescription drugs, particularly the Opioids, which include drugs such as Hydrocodone (Vicodin), Oxycontin, Oxycodone, Methadone, and more. These are all powerful painkillers that have great potential use in treating many ailments and controlling pain.
Methamphetamine or “Meth” as we more affectionately call it has been in our collective consciousness in northern Nevada for at least the last 5 or 6 years. We’ve been exposed to stories of thin, unkempt young people with scab and pock marked faces, dental issues that defy description (and that are a major gross out), and an insatiable compulsion to use the drug despite the inevitable consequences. We have been shown people who give up spouses, careers, and even their children to use this scourge of a drug.