Addiction is a Disease

In recent weeks I have grown tired, and sometimes angry, at the way people who abuse drugs are being discussed; from the goings on down on methadone mile, to the lynch mobs posing as neighborhood meetings, to the outrageous videos and posts on Facebook from Bostonians, to politicians both in and running for office. 

They’re all talking about people who use drugs as if they’re less than human. Addiction is a disease, boys and girls! I have been where these people are. When you’re in the clutches of this disease you couldn’t care less how you’re seen or how you act. All you want is more, and many people are willing to do just about anything to make that happen, even if it means debasing themselves.

I’m not excusing their behavior, I’m just stating the facts. But as always media, especially social media, whips everyone up into a frenzy; posting videos on social media of addicts doing god knows what doesn’t help. It only adds fuel to the fire. 

Don’t direct your anger at the addict. Instead direct it at state and city officials who make a whole lot of promises and not much else. They authorize things like “operation clean sweep” and other tactics that don’t do anything but push people who need help to other neighborhoods, or build those little needle stations or whatever they are around schools or playgrounds where they know damn well those discarded needles are going to end up.

When you’re dealing with active addiction you’re not thinking “Well I better make sure my drug paraphernalia is disposed of properly.” Get it? The disease doesn’t care about your neighborhood, your school age children, the old folks, your parks – NOTHING!

Again, I’m not excusing the behaviors, just giving you the facts, unlike the so-called experts who’ve never even done so much as smoke a joint or drink a beer. But go ahead, listen to them and listen to the mainstream media who portray addicts as the dregs of society. 

These so called experts also tell you that the best way to help addicts is to give them more drugs. Here’s a pro tip: Methadone, along with any other heroin substitute, isn’t 100 percent effective. In fact, I have friends who will tell you that addiction to the supposed solution drugs is even worse.

Still, the system keeps developing them much like they keep building homeless shelters as if either is a cure. Now I know what I’m going to say next isn’t going to please a lot of my comrades, but there was a moment I was very much in favor of safe injection sites. I still am, but unless it’s leading up to weaning people off of heroin they won’t work.

Like methadone, and other substitutes, safe injection sites will simply prolong the disease – and it is a disease! Yes, it may cut down on overdoses, but what about when the site is closed and someone is looking to shoot up? What then?

When I was doing Crack Cocaine if there had been a place where I could freely use I would have been there. But addiction doesn’t end when the safe injection site closes. This disease doesn’t open and close like a candy store. What we really need is treatment on demand, so of course that’s the one thing nobody is talking about. We need to start talking about it, and stop becoming angry and treating those who are in active addiction as a sub species; as beneath people who aren’t sick. They are human beings living with a disease, and pretending the disease doesn’t exist will never lead us to a cure.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.

Top