by Avah Fetzer
The following story was written by a student on the staff of The Jaguar Times as part of Hilliard Bradley High School’s Journalism Production course.
Trigger warning: This story has mentions of addiction and substance abuse and may be difficult to read for anyone that might be sensitive to this topic.
Addiction recovery awareness month occurs every September, concurrent to suicide prevention month. However, addiction recovery awareness month isn’t addressed as often as suicide prevention month is. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes September as a month to, “promote and support new evidence-based treatment and recovery practices, the emergence of a strong and proud recovery community, and the dedication of service providers and community members across the nation who make recovery in all its forms possible,” (samhsa.gov). Addiction is an issue that might not directly impact everyone however, most high school students know a friend or family member that might be battling addiction in their own lives.
According to kidshealth.org, there is a subtle, yet important difference between addiction and substance abuse. Substance abuse can be described as “using an illegal substance or using a legal substance in the wrong way.”Whereas addiction “begins as abuse, or using a substance like marijuana or cocaine,” (kidshealth.org). In other words, substance abuse is using a substance in a way it wasn’t intended for, but can lead to addiction, where a person may become physically and mentally dependent on a particular drug. However, sometimes addiction might not even start as substance abuse…it could even begin with a controlled substance that was initially a prescription drug.
Although not talked about often, addiction recovery awareness is important beyond measure. In fact, in 2017, substance abuse directly impacted 19.7 million Americans ages 12 and older, according to the American Addiction Centers (americanaddictioncenters.org). There are many “unknowns” or myths revolving around addiction and substance abuse, leading to a very large stigma which needs to be broken in order to decrease the amount of cases that occur everyday, in both adolescents and adults.
Drug abuse in teens may look different than it might in adults. In fact, many people have claimed to experiment with drugs before they are 18, according to the addiction center. On the other hand, because teens sometimes experiment with drugs, it may not always turn into an addiction. Typically substance abuse in teenagers can be caused due to curiosity, peer pressure, stress, or “a desire to escape,” (addictioncenter.com). Some common signs that a friend or teenage relative might be battling addiction are poor grades and hygiene, loss of interest in activities, bloodshot eyes, or secretive behavior. The Addiction Center suggests that it's always best to intervene if you suspect a teenager is struggling with addiction by asking them directly about it. If they admit to abusing drugs, it’s important not to overreact or “lash out,” as it could “prevent a teen from opening up about their experience,” which is vital to figuring out if the issue is a one-time only issue or a recurring issue (addictioncenter.com)
Addiction and substance abuse is typically more serious in adults, as nearly one million people ages 65 and older were living with a substance abuse disorder in 2018, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Rosecrance describes some of the warning signs of adults as avoidance of family and friends, failure to keep promises and resolutions, or work and money problems (rosecrance.org). A larger variety of things can factor into addiction and substance abuse for adults, making it harder to help an individual you love. The only thing that is certain is that help is available. If you are concerned about a loved one and don’t think you can help, the best thing you can do is talk to someone that can help.
Addiction and substance abuse are considered very “touchy” subjects. However, the more the facts about these mental illnesses are mentioned, the more the stigma revolving around them decreases, and then people are able to openly and comfortably talk about their experiences with these struggles. Knowing not only the statistics, but also the causes, signs, and prevention strategies, all help to decrease the stigma that affects the lives of many on a daily basis.
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