Letter to the Editor: The silent killer

To the Editor:

Addiction is the only disease that tells you that you don’t have a disease.

This is a powerful statement about the disease of addiction. The silent voice and inner thinking that goes on with addiction - what is it exactly that makes it so difficult to stop? Those who do not understand addiction often believe that if the addict/alcoholic “just tries hard enough,” or “just wants to badly enough,” they can stop.

Shouldn’t their damaging behaviors indicate to the addict/alcoholic that what they are doing to themselves and others in their lives is bad enough to make them want to change?

This lack of understanding results in people who have addictive behaviors being considered “immoral,” “weak,” or even “cursed” with a behavior defect that even incarceration or punishment cannot change. A better understanding of the nature of addiction could correct these damaging misconceptions.

Addiction does not discriminate. It affects people of all ages, races, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, religion or education.

There has never been a drug free society in human history. Drugs and alcohol have been around for more than 10,000 years. Yet, American society continues to fight a “War on Drugs” that it cannot win.

In 2019, more than 70,000 people died by overdose in the United States. Add to that, about 88,000 Americans die as a result of alcohol every year in the United States, and it is clear that the “War on Drugs” is not the answer.

Deaths associated with alcohol, drugs and suicide took the lives of 186,783 Americans in 2020, a 20% one-year increase in the combined death rate and the highest number of substance misuse deaths ever recorded for a single year.

The silent killer of addiction is here to stay unless American society re-evaluates its current “War on Drugs.” Shouldn’t we, instead, be focusing more on drug prevention and education? Shouldn’t we be focusing our attention on the effects drugs and alcohol can have on the individual, the family, and on our society itself?

Finally, shouldn’t we be focusing on community-based services that would allow addicts/alcoholics every opportunity to find treatment for their addiction, help them with housing, employment and education in order for them to become active members of their community?

We do not treat other diseases by shaming and incarcerating the people who have them. We treat them with compassion and give them the care they need to get better.

Many of our family members, friends, co-workers and members of our communities are in the grip of a deadly disease, the silent killer known as addiction. How many more of these people do we need to lose to overdose, alcohol-related deaths, and/or suicide before something is done about this matter?

I would like to hear your views and opinions on how to better serve those struggling with addiction. I may be reached by letter at 559 West Broadway Street, Winona, MN 55987 or by email at gottahavehope38@gmail.com.

Respectfully submitted,
Mark Jacobson
Peer Support Specialist
Winona, MN