Four small children: fun, alive, cute, real kids.
They are brothers and sisters ages 11 and younger living in a temporary foster home. Their mom is a meth addict. Child Protective Services took the children from her. She had a year to clean up and get her children back. She has made no progress, and time is almost up. Mom flat out admitted she doesn’t want to stop taking meth. Meth is everything to her.
In the near future, these sweet children with all the potential in the world will be cast into the foster system. The odds of them staying together are slim. They may never see each other again. The chance of them getting the nurturing, guidance, cultural development, moral teaching and a good education that come from stable homes is almost nil.
This mother’s actions defy human nature. Most mothers would do anything for their children. For a mother to choose to relinquish her four children forever is unthinkable to most women.
What could possibly drive a mother to this point, to turn her back on her own flesh and blood and deny every human norm? Addiction. Meth, heroin, prescription drugs, sometimes alcohol, etc., are so overpowering and dominating that addicts will do almost everything to maintain their habit.
The addiction beast consumes everything it touches — families, marriages, money, jobs, reputations, integrity, goals, psychological and physical independence, and the addict’s health and longevity. My friend has worked as a leader in the substance abuse addiction recovery field for many years. He gets several calls a day from loved ones trying to place their addict in a recovery program. Not once in all the many years he’s done this has he had a call from an addict. Not once.
Addicts alienate their whole support system — parents, husbands and wives, siblings, extended family members, bosses and friends. They pull away from family, religion, community, culture and education — all that is worthwhile — because they live to feed their habit. They scarcely have time and resources to spare for meaningful human interactions, let alone to fill human responsibilities. How many grandparents do you know who are raising their grandchildren in lieu of their addicted son or daughter?
Families of addicts must endure their beloved child or spouse stealing their money, property and medicines, and they often spend their savings and even retirement to pay fines and bail and to pay for expensive rehab. Addiction will spoil the most intimate relationships, depriving families of a beloved son, daughter, wife, husband, father or mother for a long time and possibly forever.
Horrible as are the effects that addiction inflicts on families, most addicts suffer excruciating consequences. They lose all self-respect. They loathe themselves. They are aware that they are disappointing and hurting everyone who cares for them. Most addicts feel acutely the opportunities and blessings they have given up.
In a wicked irony, drug abuse alters the addict’s brain to protect the addiction and enhance its hold. “Over time, a person’s ability to choose not to (use) becomes compromised. Seeking and taking the drug becomes compulsive. This is mostly due to the effects of long-term drug exposure on brain function. Addiction affects parts of the brain involved in reward and motivation, learning and memory and control over behavior,” according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
There is hope. Hospitals and doctors are working together to prescribe far fewer opioids. States and counties are suing opioid manufacturers for irresponsibly promoting their use. Society in general has begun to focus on this national problem. School shootings and spikes in suicide have prompted an examination of mental health services and spurred outreach to find those at risk.12 comments on this story
Science has developed several drugs that aid in detoxification and treatments, such as methadone and Suboxone. Behavioral therapies can be very effective, although usually very expensive, and most health insurance coverage for substance abuse recovery is limited. Treatment resources are constrained as well. And it is no small matter for the addict to admit the addiction and agree to seek therapy. Healing is a long, painful and arduous process, most often with many relapses.
We all need to address this societal scourge — by reducing illicit supply, adopting better prescription policies and prevention, prevention, prevention.