The Great Divide Amongst Us
Rev. John D. Cronic, Jr. (ICADC, CADC)
Throughout the years there appears to have grown an ever increasing divide amongst our population regarding how to best address addiction.
On the one hand, many feel that addiction prevention strategies hold the answers in how to curtail substance abuse. On the contrary, there are those that hold fast to the belief that only substance abuse treatment will provide the means necessary to combat, what many believe is, an ever increasing epidemic within our borders. Still, others are convinced that the decriminalization of certain substances, such as marijuana, would afford us the opportunity to centralize our attention on other more prominent issues such as illicit and prescription drug abuse. However, there are those that stand in starch contrast to this view, believing that answer to America’s drug problem will be solved by tougher sentencing laws.
The biggest question is which view is right? Proponents of addiction prevention rightfully believe that substance abuse can be minimized, and or thwarted, through appropriate screening and early intervention techniques, that is provided that this process begins during childhood and extends into later adolescence. However, many of those given the daunting task of screening our youth, such as health professionals, school personnel, and social service providers routinely only screen for one substance of abuse such as tobacco/nicotine, alcohol, or other drug use, due to time and cost restraints. 1
Sadly, regardless of our desire, not all our young people will receive the rewards of brief interventions and prevention screening measures in an adequate measure.
Many addiction treatment proponents agree that addiction is a complex but treatable medical disease that affects brain function and behavior and can be characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences.2 However, subsections of treatment supporters are often torn as to the best treatment methodologies. Often proponents of addiction treatment, whether faith based or secularly focused, are forced to into divisive ness over the question of abstinence based treatment verse risk reduction. While these opposing forces may often clash in their opinions, underneath lies a heart that desires a better life for those that have been so negatively affected by the substances that have held them captive for so long.
In the end, this fact remains, nearly 10 percent of the United States population is affected by substance abuse. That’s right 23.5 million Americans are currently being held captive, while their families and loved one cry out for help as well. The greatest travesty may be the fact that despite, our combined efforts, less than 11% of those shackled by the bonds of addiction will receive the care they so desperately need.3 The truth is that each view mentioned may possess merit in its own right, but is that important to the addict who is suffering today? What of the mother that received the knock at the door moments ago informing her that her son/daughter died as a result of an overdose or was tragically killed as a result of alcohol and drugs? What of the child getting on the school bus this morning not knowing if the answer to the question “want to try this,” will be answered no today or not? Is it not time, regardless of our stance, that despite our differencing views and opinions, that we now begin working together to provide hope for each person affected substance use, including those that have been tragically affected through no fault of their own?
1. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, “Addiction Medicine: Closing the Gap between Science and Practice,” (June 2012): 63
2. DrugFacts: Treatment Approaches for Drug Addiction .., https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addic (accessed December 06, 2016).
3. New Data Show Millions of Americans with Alcohol and Drug .., http://www.drugfree.org/new-data-show-millions-of-americans-with-alcohol-and-dru (accessed December 06, 2016).