Consider New Ideas Regarding Addictions

Editor, News-Register:

This morning, Nov. 4, 2017, I was encouraged that the editor of the local newspaper was addressing the issue of drug addiction.

He suggests that there are three groups of people who are addicted to drugs:

∫ Cocaine and heroin addicts who “by choice dabbled in substance abuse and get hooked.”

∫ Those who get addicted to opiates who “volunteered to be junkies. They tried pills such as OxyContin because they thought it might be fun.”

∫ Those who get addicted to opiates “including some servicemen and women who were given the drugs because of in-service injuries and wounds.”

In this editorial in The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, the editor is suggesting that the community take the primary focus off of the persons who are addicted to drugs and focus instead on “drug companies, distributors and prescribers.” He is further suggesting that we approach this issue from a law enforcement perspective “using cops and prosecutors to spend one month finding the unscrupulous doctors, pharmacists, drug distributors and manufacturers who are dealing in death. Give them another month to prepare cases against them.”

I would like to respectfully suggest that we, as a community, consider:

∫ Experimenting with drugs, including alcohol, as a way to feel better quickly or avoid dealing with life on life’s terms is an accepted practice in much of our society. According to figures published by the National Institute of Health there are more than 80,000 alcohol related deaths yearly in this country. Alcohol is permitted at college sporting events and on many college campuses knowing that it will be abused. Most of those experimenting will not become addicted. This does not mean that experimenting is safe.

∫ We live in a country which encourages and condones using money as a gauge of one’s worth or importance no matter how it affects one another. Some would suggest that this is another form of addiction.

∫ We have a private health care system which rewards (and often insists) that health care prescribing professionals see many patients in a very short amount of time. Prescribing medication can be a very quick and efficient way to treat symptoms.

∫ Many pharmaceutical companies are publicly traded companies. How many prospective stockholders look at profit margin and ignore policies which may contribute to issues such as addiction?

I am suggesting the issue is more systemic than addicts, drugs, health care providers, pharmaceutical companies, or those who distribute and sell legal or illegal drugs. I am suggesting that:

∫ Insead of focusing on drugs per se, focus on our societal addictions to power, money and anything else outside of ourselves to feel temporarily better.

∫ A health care system that is not motivated by profit could be part of the solution. This would include paying for medical school and additional training and paying doctors the same salaries we pay teachers and other professionals.

∫ Teach ourselves and our children to examine the ethics which guide companies before investing in stocks. Actual ethics may be much different than their stated mission.

∫ Accept that punishment as a primary tool for dealing with our community issues or violation of what we say are our community values has not worked. The United States continues to be a leader in incarcerating people for long periods of time and in the recidivism rate. Treating individuals as less than in hopes that they will become more spiritual people has not worked.

∫ Continue to applaud those, such as the editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register, for exploring new approaches to such issues. We need to have a lot of community conversations about such issues.

Jimmy F. Pickett