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Have Humans Developed an Addiction Gene

Opinion

Have Humans Developed an Addiction Gene

Have Humans Developed an Addiction Gene

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Are we creating an addiction gene? Last week ROR published an Associated Press study that indicates more people are aware of the opioid crisis. This is hardly surprising. With people dropping dead in the US at the rate of 112 a day, you’d have to be on Mars not to be aware of a serious public health problem. Imagine 112 people dropping dead a day of say, Legionaires Disease. There would be solutions in place, not twenty years after the onset, but immediately. The Surgeon General would not suddenly (after decades of escalation) advise the public to carry a nasal spray antibiotic around with them. If you have a deadly disease, and there is an antidote that works only to resuscitate but not to cure, how will that help anyone? Seriously.

The Surgeon General’s Advisory To Stock Narcan

Say Mom has a heroin addict in her home. With the SG's advisory she’s supposed to know how to resuscitate him in the case of an overdose. Unfortunately, no one has taught her how to prevent his disease or how to treat him after resuscitating him. What can a parent, spouse, or loved one do for a chronic relapsing brain disease that tells the sufferer he doesn’t have a disease? He will certainly overdose again.

Where are the grownups here? Where’s public education? Where are treatment solutions?

The Addiction Public Health Issue Is Not New

Seven years ago when ROR was founded, addiction was the number one health issue in America. It was a killer everyone hated. There were plenty of news reports and documentaries showing what addiction looks like, but no education about the benefits of recovery, or how recovery for families, workplaces, and communities might be achieved. There was little to inform parents how to spot problems in teens, or how to deal with substance use as a family, or school system. A few years ago people were dying at lower rate but still dying. Hundreds in some communities. Young people. Teens.

It wasn’t until the bodies started literally piling up in the streets that the alarm bell was sounded, and solutions like carrying Narcan have been suggested. NIH just pledged $1.3 billion for research, but there’s still no education about prevention or recovery for families suffering right now.

The Real Health Issue Is Bigger Than An Opioid Crisis

The fundamental issue is that we have an addiction to a wide variety of substances, both legal and illegal. It’s not just an opioid crisis. It's many kinds of substances.

Take alcohol, for example. Alcohol causes more health issues, hospitalizations, lost productivity, destroyed families, and deaths yearly (more than 5 million worldwide according to WHO) than opioids.

Alcohol is overlooked as a killer because it’s a legal, “fun” intoxicant with a powerful lobby and a long, checkered history. After prohibition was lifted, alcohol became the party emperor. There is no widespread information about the family disease of Alcohol Use Disorder (alcoholism), no information about the impact on children of substance use at home. No understanding of how to teach children or parents. Meth is still out there, cocaine is still out there. Designer drugs of all kinds are still out there. Why can't the public be informed?

Nearly every parent coping with addiction in the US today is as clueless, helpless and hopeless as I was twenty years ago. The fact that we haven't, as a nation, begun directly teaching people how to cope with substance use is a national scandal of epic proportions. It's an epidemic because we literally let it happen. I don't know any college president or middle school superintendent who is passionate about dealing with the alcohol and drug problems on their campuses. Students are taught to be silent.

Have Humans Developed An Addiction Gene

Humans have been using intoxicants to feel better since the beginning of time. Alcohol, opium, tea, coffee, chocolate, cannabis, sugar, and other naturally occurring substances have always been used. But the level of intoxicant use in the last hundred years has turned the love of feeling better into a worldwide substance use disorder (addiction) epidemic.

Because addiction is so widespread affecting so many millions of people, one wonders if humans have developed the addiction gene as more drugs are being prescribed for every complaint imaginable and ever more powerful intoxicants are designed? This is a question I haven’t heard anybody ask.

Education Is The Only Solution

We are in the dark ages when it comes to dealing with substance use disorder. If you don't train and teach teens, parents, doctors, nurses, college presidents, and children about substances and their impact on the human brain, body, emotions, and relationships, then the addiction disease will continue to proliferate and destroy everyone it touches.

Intoxicants include: Sugar, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and a wide variety of naturally occurring opiates (morphine and heroin) and stimulants (cocaine, Qat, Ephedra), hallucinogens (mushrooms, cannabis) as well as literally hundreds of synthetic drugs. Everybody is hooked on something.

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Leslie Glass is the founder of Reach Out Recovery and the winner of the 2016 ASAM Media Award. Leslie is also the creator of Recovery Guidance, the information website for those seeking addiction and mental healthcare for professionals nationwide. Leslie is a journalist, director/producer of award-winning documentaries, and the author of 15 bestselling novels. Leslie has served as Chairman of the Board of Plays For Living, was a member of the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America. She has served as a Public Member of the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, as a VP of The Asolo Theatre, and was a Trustee of the New York City Police Foundation.

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