Without having personal experience, most people cannot imagine the life of those who live in poverty, those who witness parental abuse, or suffer any kind of physical or sexual abuse. As human beings we all suffer from traumatic events of varying degrees, be it the divorce of parents, death of a loved one, witnessing or experiencing bullying, seeing on social media that your “friends” are always hanging out together, but no one invited you. Everything I’ve mentioned above represents stressors that can cause neurochemical disruption.
Early traumatic events in life that result in chronic stress are referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences or ACEs. The problem of drug addiction arises when a young person living with stress is exposed to drugs through an injury, a friend, or a search for self-medication, the drug falsely gives them the spike in neuro chemistry that normalizes their world. Imagine the pull one would feel to use again and again and again. The root of most drug addiction is emotional. It’s a mental health problem.
Everyone doesn’t respond the same way to life’s stressors. Yet instead of having compassion for those who end up depending on drugs for a sense of comfort, we arrest them and consider them criminals. We inflict more abuse and more damage. We fail to acknowledge and address the real issue.
If we don’t address mental health and addiction simultaneously, we will never get out of the mess we are in. And as if we didn’t already have adverse childhood experiences at every turn let’s add political hatred, strife in our streets, a deadly virus and war.
Now, let’s top all that off with the greed of drug-dealing cartels that are happy to meet the growing demand for drugs. They are unleashing Fentanyl and its death furry to all 50 states. Last year enough Fentanyl to kill 1.2 billion people was seized at our southern border. That’s enough to kill every person in America 3 times.
Here is a little wake-up call; we lost more people from drug overdose last year than the combined deaths of 36 years of war in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. I have never been more concerned for our children and young adults as they suffer through these years. It’s time to help them instead of continuing to hurt them.
Awareness Is The First Step
I have launched the non-profit, Overdose Free America, which uses the power of celebrity and entertainment to bring the opioid crisis the visibility and support it deserves. In addition, I sit on the Board of Same Here Global whose mission it is to normalize society’s perception of mental health and make it part of our everyday conversation. Fortunately, these two groups have collided bringing much greater awareness to these interrelated issues. If you have a loved one who has suffered with substance abuse and mental health issues, please check out both organizations. They are here to help.