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The inexplicable lure of drugs

June 7, 2018
By Darren Fraser , Emmetsburg News

Crime in small Iowa towns jumped 50 percent in 2016. Not surprisingly, methamphetamine played a role in the surge. Why do people get sucked up in the vortex of addiction? You may rightly sigh, "Because it's addiction." But I argue something altogether different.

The statistic came from Sunday's Des Moines Register. Lee Rood wrote the article. She defines a non-metropolitan area (i.e., small town) as having fewer than 10,000 residents. Rood notes it's not only drugs driving the crime increase; lack of police, outsiders and economics all play a part. But unlike a sour economy or a personnel problem, drugs particularly highly addictive drugs like meth and opiates inevitably lead to destruction. First comes the physical erosion: meth mouth, hepatitis, HIV and other unpleasantries. Then comes the demise of the soul; hitherto respectable individuals resorting to anything and everything to feed their habit. The death of the spirit follows zombified husks of humanity living only to die a little more with each fix. Physical death comes as a release.

Before writing news for this paper, I wrote about behavioral health issues for a treatment center. I wrote extensively about opiates, including heroin and oxycodone (or Oxy). I wrote about Narcan and Naxolone. I wrote about needle-exchange programs and methadone clinics and Suboxone. I wrote about individuals who were addicted to heroin their entire lives; about individuals who have been taking methadone for half a century; about babies born addicted; about drug impurities that cause needle-injection sites to look like moon craters; and about addicts pimping out their children.

Portugal legalized drugs with some success. Some Scandinavian countries have programs that facilitate safe intravenous drug use. All of which sound wonderful but completely miss the mark.

I am neither anti nor pro-drug. I am a pragmatist. I know that, like the poor, drugs will always be with us. And not unlike diets, new treatments promise miracles and welsh on their promises. Narcotics Anonymous works for those willing to form a relationship with a higher power. But in all the time I spent writing about drugs, I kept returning to the issue of why?

I concede the physical addiction. The pleasure center in the human brain loves narcotics - give it enough and it will not easily give up craving more. Purdue Pharma, the family-owned business that gave the world OxyContin, now runs full-page ads begging readers to know the company was not willing complicit in creating a generation of prescription pill addicts despite the fact they may have had an inkling what was afoot when they revamped the Oxy formula to make it crush-resistant. But there is not point in blaming Big Pharma; it's out to make a buck like everyone else.

My question is why is it so difficult for an addict to have that moment of clarity when he or she says, "I do not want to live like this"? How much physical and spiritual degradation must a person endure the rock bottom, if you will before he has an epiphany?

I argue it is not religion or economics or even self-esteem that redeems an addicted individual. I argue there is no formula for success. Treatment and anonymous programs may tout healthy success rates, but the majority of people who go in go right out again. No, the only salvation for the addict is will. Not the will to overcome addiction I am not implying addicts are weak-willed people. The will I am describing is the will to live. This cannot be taught; cannot be nurtured in a support group. The will to live is the quietest voice in the remotest corner of our mind. Most of us have the luxury of not needing to call on it our entire lives. But it is there. It is that most inexplicable and remarkable human quality.

Without the will to live, humans shrivel up and blow away.



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