Like any parent dealing with a child's addiction, I would think “how on earth did this happen?” How did my child become addicted to drugs? Why are so many young people battling addiction?
I had many questions that needed answers. Our child should not be battling an addiction. It wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. To make sense of it all, I went on a quest for information. What I found was eye-opening.
My son did not become addicted because we were bad parents. We were good, loving parents. It was not because he has weak morals. He is the most kind, caring person you could ever meet. Of course, we already knew all of this.
If you want to know who is to blame for this prescription drug epidemic, follow the money trail. Who had the most to gain from the sale of these drugs? It was certainly not Mike and me. It was not the other parents I’ve met on this journey either. And, it certainly wasn’t our addicted children.
The money trail leads right to the pharmaceutical companies who were laughing all the way to the bank. It was proven in court that they misled government, medical schools, doctors, and patients about the addictive properties of their prescription pain pills. They were ordered to pay $600 million in damages. Just a drop in the bucket compared to the profits they made and continue to make.
Unfortunately, the harm they caused (and continue to cause) was great. So many people were addicted and this continues to this day as these pain pills claim new victims.
Canada is the second largest consumer of opiates in the world. The United States is the largest, although not by much. Some people legitimately need these medications, and I am glad they have found the relief they need. Many more do not need them so they get diverted to the street, and into the hands of people like my son.
My son was 15 when the pharmaceutical company was convicted. He was even younger than that when the problem began. There were no local media reports, no public service announcements, no nothing!
Not a peep!
We were going about our business of raising our children, thinking that the world was as safe as it was when we were young. We had no idea that there was something lurking out there that was going to rip the hearts right out of our chests and turn our world upside down. No clue. As we laughed together, ate meals, read Robert Munsch books, and made plans for the future, the storm was waiting outside of our door. We hadn’t heard a thing about it.
Not a peep.
Our son said, “I know that you and dad always talked to me about drugs but you didn’t say prescription drugs so when a friend had them I thought they were safe because they were prescribed by a doctor.” We couldn’t talk about something we didn’t know. We hadn’t heard a thing about prescription drugs on the street.
Not a peep.
In silence, this epidemic surrounded us, claiming many victims, including my son and many of his peers.
Now, some would say that all kids (and their parents) in this generation were in the same boat but they did not become addicted. That is absolutely correct.
Some kids didn’t try these drugs at all. Good on them.
But, some kids did! Not because they weren’t raised properly. Not because their parents didn’t talk to them about drugs. No, they tried them because they were easy to access, they were curious, and they thought they were safe.
Just like our parents warned us about drinking, and put the fear of God into us about what would happen to us if we did, we still drank because the alcohol was available. We were curious and wanted to join in the fun. We also never thought anything bad would ever happen to us. Were our parents negligent? Did they not raise us properly? If your parents were like mine, they did the best they could to ensure that you wouldn’t drink.
Just like us with our alcohol, a good percentage of the kids who experimented with these prescription drugs were able to walk away. I am so grateful for that!
However, my son and many others were not so lucky. They developed the disease of addiction. The same way that some patients legally prescribed opiates will develop an addiction and some won’t, some of our kids got hooked and some didn’t. We all have different genetic make ups, leaving some more susceptible than others to this brain disease.
When youth take drugs it is like playing Russian roulette. They don’t know if they will become addicted or not. We can talk to them about the dangers but, as we know, many youth have to find out for themselves. This is why it is up to us, as a society, to protect them by controlling their access to prescription drugs (or any other drugs for that matter). We can do our part by locking up these medications if we have them in our homes.
We can also be kind, caring and compassionate toward those who are suffering from addiction. After all, when they tried drugs, they never dreamed that they would develop an addiction that would destroy their lives. You may think that they should know better because there are many horror stories. When we were kids, we heard many stories about smoking, drinking, and driving too fast – some young people even died from it in our communities – but it didn’t stop us from doing it. We were invincible.
Even now as adults, we take risks even though we know the consequences. A great example is our unhealthy diets and lack of exercise. We all know that these two things can lead to a myriad of health problems, including an early death. Yet, the majority of us haven’t changed our lifestyles. Why then do we expect kids to make the right decisions based on the known risks? Their brains are not even fully developed enough to be able to properly assess the risks and consequences.
Kindness and understanding will go a long way in dealing with this epidemic. When people feel comfortable enough to reach out for help, we all benefit! Be part of the solution, not the problem.