Jamie Wood: We need to break the stigma around drug addiction and normalise intervention

Jamie Wood, from Boca Raton in Florida who is in recovery and been sober for 6 years, argues that drug addiction is endemic in western society, and won’t be effectively tackled until the stigma around it is challenged head on, and we all become comfortable with normalising interventions

WHEN some people think about drug addiction the Hollywood version of an addict may come to mind. Homeless, dirty and desperate. Movies rarely show what a vast majority of drug addicts look like; ordinary people. They look like mums and dads, brothers and sisters, friends and cousins; they look like you and I.

Normal people who found themselves hooked on dangerous substances. The longer they use the more they will shift the chemical balance in their brain. Even if they want to stop they will face an array of challenges, one of the most difficult to overcome is the stigma associated with drug addiction.

The fear of how the world will view them if they admit they are struggling can cause far too many people from seeking the professional help they need and deserve. Even if the signs of their addiction are obvious people may continue to deny. Pride can stand in the way of a better life. If we are able to break the stigma that is far too often associated with drug addiction it can help save thousands of lives.

READ MORE: How Glasgow, drug death capital of Europe, could be following Sydney and Vancouver in saving lives, if not for UK Govt intransigence

Scotland recorded the largest number of drug deaths in Europe last year proportionately, with 934 deaths in 2017. 87 per cent of deaths involved opiates. What can we do to help decrease this tragic loss of life?

Spreading awareness about how widespread drug addiction truly is, plays an essential role in breaking the drug addiction stigma. People must realise the widespread devastating impact that drugs have had on this country. If you have ever struggled don’t be ashamed to share your story with others. It can help shine light into a dark world. Putting a face to this epidemic is necessary. Without humanising it some people will view it in a way that can be detrimental to one seeking help. No one wants to be viewed as an outcast or as a black sheep.

We need more available low-cost treatment centers and detox centers is pathetic. Far too much money goes towards incarcerating those who struggle with drug addiction. More funds must be put towards rehabilitating these individuals. Reach out to your local government and tell them how you want your taxes to be spent. Over 50 per cent of those in jail and behind bars are there due to a drug-related charge.

READ MORE: SNP blames UK Govt’s 'abject failure' on drug policy for rise in Scottish drug deaths

It’s extremely important that when facing criminal charges directly correlated with drug addiction that the person struggling is given the option to receive professional help. The chances of them getting clean and staying clean are much higher if they are to enter a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. Volunteer, spread awareness, speak your mind; change will come.

Intervention is defined as the action or process of intervening, interference by a country in another's affairs and/or action taken to improve a situation, especially a medical disorder. When a loved one is struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism many loved ones will have an intervention to help persuade them to seek out professional help. Two of the leading causes of death in the United States are related to drug addiction and alcohol.  Many addicts and alcoholics will not go into a detox center or a rehab center without a fight, this is when many family members will have an intervention. An intervention can literally be the difference between life and death for someone who is in the midst of their addiction or alcoholism.

You don’t need to hire a professional interventionist for it to be successful. Speak your mind and tell them how you feel. Let them know how their actions are affecting you and what you are willing to do to help them. Knowing that there are people there who support them and want them to get better can make all the difference in the world. You don’t want to come off hostile and frustrated, stay calm and ask others to speak to the person struggling with you. 3-5 people are ideal for any intervention. Try to write down your thoughts prior to engaging, emotions can fly high, you don’t want to get lost in the moment.

Picture courtesy of Viv Lynch