There’s been a lot in the news about the current national opioid epidemic. It unites both parties in the belief that it sucks. It widens the health care division, as those in favor of universal health care and in favor of supporting addicted relatives point out that Trump Care does not provide coverage for rehab, and most Republicans don’t give a burning bag of shit (guess my political attitude!). It continues to spread and ruin lives as both Democrats and Republicans bicker and throw their arms in the air.
I have a unique perspective on this issue. First, while I myself do not have an opioid addiction–it makes me too constipated, seriously–I know people who do. I love these people. They are kind, compassionate, creative, hardworking, and funny. They are passionate about outdoor sports, poetry, cars, and whole milk. Do I know everyone who has an opioid addiction? Obviously not. But I know a few, and they’re important to me, and they’re human.
Second, I have an obsession with child abuse, PTSD, and anything connected to those topics (for obvious reasons; see post #1 if you’re confused). And over the past few years, I’ve read a couple of articles about substance abuse in general and a history of trauma.
Now, I need to acknowledge that not all opioid addicts, or addicts in general, have a history of trauma. Addiction is a complicated disease (note that I wrote disease, like cancer and tuberculosis), related to genetics, environmental and social factors, and a plethora of other variables. Regardless of a person’s individual history, I am wholeheartedly against blaming the addict. Don’t you think that if they could choose to have relationships with those they love, meaningful jobs, money to pay rent, and an appetite for Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, they would?????? I mean, but, really?????? It’s a DISEASE. But I get especially steamed when I remember all the unfortunate links between childhood trauma and addiction.
A July 1998 report for the National Institute on Drug Abuse found that 67% of drug abusers polled had experienced some form of child abuse. That is to say, if you asked nearly 7 of 10 drug abusers, they would admit to having been abused as children. And this study doesn’t account for those who (undeservedly) feel too much pain to make the admission (It is not your fault. It never was. It never has been).
To hammer home the takeaway of this study, the researchers made a point of separating women who reported sexual trauma in to two groups: rape during childhood and rape during adulthood. The women who were raped when they were children were,
- More than three times as likely to have used marijuana
- Six times more likely to have used cocaine
- More than 10 times as likely to have used drugs other than cocaine, including heroin and amphetamines
than women who, thank any god/deity/force you see fit, escaped that kind of horror.
There are so many possible reasons why it survivors of child abuse are more likely to be drug addicts. Just type “child abuse,” in to Google, and you’ll immediately see words like “anxiety”, “PTSD”, “Depression,” “Suicidal ideation,” “social difficulties,” “difficulty sleeping,” and “academic difficulties”, and more. Children grow in to teenagers and adults. Those teenagers and adults still have PTSD, still have depression, still can’t sleep, and still feel isolated and withdrawn from other people. They still lie awake at night being forced to remember the worst moments in their lives. Their memories can’t be unmemorized (trust me, I’ve tried). Throw in the teeniest, tiniest modicum of genetic predisposition, mix it with all those words I just typed above, and you’ve got a smashing recipe for drug addiction.
I mean, I can’t blame those folks. And if you can, you’ve got a serious empathy problem.
So, here’s my message to Congress.
As I’ve said, children grow in to adults. Adults come from children. Adults were once children. Children do not deserve to undergo abuse. Those adults, in their heads, sometimes still have to be children who were abused. Have some goddamned fucking compassion and provide healthcare to addicts.
Or, you know, we could still just keep throwing them in jail and not rehabilitating them.