No two diseases are the same. Because of that, we treat diseases in different ways. But for anyone who has disease, affecting their physical well-being, one thing is clear – we believe they should get the best possible care available, as soon as possible and for as long as needed.
I believe this.
I also believe that anyone suffering any condition that affects their thinking, their emotional well-being, their behaviors, their decisions, their stability, their capabilities, deserves exactly the same.
So why the disparity. Everyone of us knows someone that is not treated in the manner their deserve.
We all know people who think those battling addiction “should be locked away in prison”. That “they are selfish, weak, losers”. That “they are a drain on society”.
We all know people who think someone battling depression should “just get over it. What have they got to be depressed about”.
Those battling anxiety and panic attacks and at times are unable to even leave their home, are “looking for attention”.
Those battling schizophrenia are “crazy”.
Young people struggling are often dismissed “hormones” “the teen years”.
Diseases or condition affecting the brain are dismissed as something the suffer has control over. Something the suffer is perpetuating. Something the suffer has brought on themselves.
And nothing could be farther from the truth. Addiction, mental illness, brain related conditions literally incapacitate the suffer. These conditions and diseases literally rob the suffer of any pleasure. Any peace. Any laughter. Any positive feelings.
These conditions leave the suffer in a deep, dark hole that makes them feel completely alone as they further isolate themselves out of fear, shame, embarrassment. Because of the stigma society has placed on diseases and conditions affecting the thinking, the behaviors, the ability to process, those suffering often suffer in silence and with beliefs that only compounds their shame and isolation.
This has to stop. People are dying every single day. Lives are destroyed. Families are devastated. Society is affected. This must end.
Never before in modern times have we seen this degree of health crisis going on, on our streets, in our homes, in every community in the country. Countries around the world. Even the AIDS crisis did not take the number of lives addiction has taken.
Addiction takes the person addicted hostage. Their behaviors take their loved ones hostage. Very sick people are dying at an alarming rate every single day from overdose and the opioid crisis. Those who survive an overdose with the administration of Naloxon or Narcan, as it is often referred to, are often left permanently brain impaired because of the lack of oxygen to the brain.
What many don’t realize is that hospital wards and long term care facilities have an ever expanding number of those with permanent brain damage – no longer able to care for themselves because an overdose left them permanently disabled.
When addiction has taken hold of someone, the party has ended. The suffer is no longer “choosing” to use, rather is “dependent” on using. That might seem difficult to comprehend but it is factual. The addict’s brain has been altered. The person addicted has a brain disease. The science has proven what those of us who have a loved one suffering have long believed. The long line of professionals, doctors, scientists, addictions specialist, they all concur. ADDICTION IS A DISEASE.
We need to have a system in place to treat those addicted in the same timely manner and with whatever is deemed necessary to stop the deaths, as we do for those suffering physical diseases. Whether that be making Methadose or Saboxon prescriptions more easily availble. Doctors meeting patients where they are at. Safe injection sites. Medically prescribed heroin. We need to stop this deadly disease trajectory. If keeping people alive and able to function means prescribing opioids in a controlled environment under strict guidelines, then lets do it.
We will never stop substance mis-use or abuse. But we can steam the tide. We can reduce the colossal damage. The number of lost and broken people. The number of devastated families and the financial burden on society.
We need to have detox and treatment immediately available when an addict reaches out. That window of opportunity is very small – we cannot afford to let that loved one fall through the cracks. That three week wait list. That just does not work.
For those people battling any one of the large number of mental illnesses that we are acutely aware of, they cannot wait. They need immediate help when they reach out.
People with altered brain functioning because of any one of the diseases affecting the brain can not wait. They are suffering horrifically just trying to get through the day. Doctors, therapists, support workers, counsellors, medication, continuous, long term supports. These are not negotiable. These are necessities. People are dying self-medicating. The numbers of people struggling with addiction and mental illness together is massive. We need to help those who are at a place where they are feeling helpless. Where they are feeling hopeless. Where they are feeling desperate. Where they can no longer help themselves.
Would we as a society leave anyone battling a physical disease in the same manner in which we leave those battling a mental illness or a brain disease like addiction. I think not.
We have to do better. Our loved ones can no longer wait. Way too many have died. Stand up. Speak out. Let your voices be heard. They are counting on us.
Until next time my Friend, take care of yourself and reach out when you need to. I truly care.