Quite simply, we in Benton and Franklin Counties need to understand the disease of addiction so we can come together and develop solutions that work.
First, we need to know that addiction is a real, physical disease. It is an equal-opportunity brain disease that can strike people whether they seek out psychoactive drugs or develop the disease from prescribed medications.
Genetic predisposition plays a large role in whether a person goes from casual, short-term use into the chasm of addiction, or can stop use with little or no discomfort. Body type, previous traumas, numbers of neurons and strength of neurotransmitters in the brain, and many other factors play a role.
Science now can show us this disease on brain scans and measure the strength of electro-chemical signals in the brain. Yet, throughout history, addiction has been seen as a choice, and a poor one at that. Stopping drug use, it has been said, is as easy as deciding and doing.
If “just saying no” were the answer, we wouldn’t be experiencing the largest disease epidemic in U.S. history.
We wouldn’t be losing an American to addiction every 7.3 minutes, and more Americans per year to this disease than car crashes and gun deaths combined.
We wouldn’t be seeing at least two Tri-Citians every month die as a direct result of addiction, and greater numbers die from addiction-related causes such as abscesses, pancreatitis, liver failure and suicide. Yet, we are seeing these things and more.
More Americans die every year from addiction than died in the entire Vietnam War (11 years), and the wars in Afghanistan (18 years) and Iraq (16 years) combined!
The fact that we are seeing this carnage, as well as uncounted near-miss overdoses, means we must do something different. Ignoring, incarcerating, shaming, lecturing, shunning, pleading, and punishing have not worked.
Addicted people need help. They need medicine, safe places to recover, time, acceptance, and rest.
We, in Benton and Franklin Counties, are smart, resourceful, and generous. We need to provide detoxification centers, an inpatient treatment center, and a diversion center where non-violent offenders found with tiny amounts of drugs can go for treatment instead of arrest.
Join Michele Gerber, Ph.D., Becky Grohs, R.N., and Benton County Sheriff Jerry Hatcher at the Badger Club on July 25 for a discussion of what we can do together! Badger Club members will be able to put their questions directly to the speakers.
Dr. Michele S. Gerber is president of the Benton Franklin Recovery Coalition.
If you go
When: 11:30 a.m., Thursday, July 25
Where: Shilo Inn, 50 Comstock St., Richland
Cost: $25 for Badger Club members, $30 for nonmembers, $35 day of the event. Registration is required.
RSVP: Call 628-6011 or go to cbbc.clubexpress.com