America, look what’s going on! Thousands of teens and 20 somethings are dying from the likes of illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, crystal Meth, ecstasy, and dozens of other drugs out there. Many of them also suffer from mental illnesses.
At the same time, there’s a steadily growing grassroots movement by parents especially on the Internet, to memorialize their children and make the world aware of the disease of drug addiction and mental illness.
Just Say No, a preventative education and anti-drug program that began 35-40 years ago in schools and communities, has not worked. We’ve viewed pot as a rite of passage and see drug use glorified on TV. There is a deep disconnect between the drug addicted mind, behavior and the mission of rehabs. It just doesn’t work. Past strategies are not enough. We need to enter a deeper way of communicating that convinces.
It could be medication or some new behavioral therapy we haven’t thought of yet.
Research into addiction tells us it’s not all in one’s head. Let’s encourage genetic research and pressure our leaders to release money for that vital research.
When a young man or woman dies a soldier of war, they are called ‘heroes.’
But what does one call those sons and daughters who die of drugs?
There is a terrible stigma one faces when losing their child to drugs and I couldn’t accept it. I was outraged being a parent of a child who died from drugs.
We all have different ways of dealing with our lost children. Some idolize their lost prodigy in perpetual adoration. Some become activists, like Ginger Katz “Courage to Speak” out of Connecticut; Maureen Morella, whose son is paralyzed, speaks publicly in the New Jersey schools, and Sherry McGinnis from Florida, with her collection of parents’ gut-wrenching stories of their lost children in I am your Disease: The Many Faces of Addiction.
Some of us, like me, are just ripping mad and want to shout it from the rooftops.
I thought society had the stigma of looking down at self-medicating, clinically depressed people. The stigma, I found out, was in me. I couldn’t accept it.
My poor son suffered Attention Deficit Disorder; Learning Disabilities; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, anxiety and depression with bipolar affect. He couldn’t tolerate all these demons together. I didn’t understand the full scope and depth of these problems. I didn’t realize they were so grave.
Despite this, our son managed to touch many lives while alive. A good friend tells
me his life was a success. We know he did the best he could with what he had.
He had a good family, a wonderful social life, and didn’t commit crimes. Like all
parents, we love our children dearly.
Our psychiatric world throws these buzzword conditions around so much that it is hard to take them seriously. How can it be that so many children have ADD? But these are grave conditions that affect mood, outlook and one’s ability to navigate a naturally nebulous life. Any one of those mental disorders wreaks havoc, much less having all of them together. Many of the young men and women, who suffer from these conditions, turn to illicit drugs to self-medicate, and unfortunately become addicts, and many will die. It just doesn’t seem fair that in these modern times, the 3rd millennium that we still haven’t figured out drug addiction and mental illness. They obviously go hand-in-hand and the ones who become addicted, those whose brains are in lockdown and held hostage by the drug, those whom scientists tell me, have brains tricked into believing their bodies need the drugs like they need air and water remain lost.
USA Today recently gave a sterling endorsement of the National Alliance for Research into Schizophrenia and Depression. 100% of the money they raise goes into research for depression, mental disorders and substance abuse.
Mental illness and drug addiction is a double-edged sword. Some afflicted persons commit suicide, some self-medicate, some wind up behind bars, and some live quiet medicated lives out of desperation. With all due respects, there are also some mentally ill people who, under a doctor’s care live normal lives with the legitimately proper prescribed medication.
Unfortunately, mental illness and drug addiction often destroy the lives of those afflicted and those who love them. Although intense research is going on all over the world in universities and medical centers, we as a global community, can no longer bury our heads in the sand. We need courage to face these maladies and to understand what makes the brain “tick” so we can best help and support those who suffer from the terrible disease of substance abuse, addiction and mental illness.
Linda is a freelance writer who lives on Long Island with her husband and looks to the day when every addicted person recovers and chooses life over death.