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Op-ed: Unite in the Facts on Substance Abuse

facts on substance abuse

The stigmas engulfing drug and alcohol abuse are dissipating. There’s arguably never been more discussion, more community action, more political attention, or more media reporting on substance abuse than there is today. I applaud that. But while the stigmas are retreating, opinions are deluging in and quickly filling the cracks and voids left behind. 

Cue the arguments on morality – on what is “right” or “wrong”. Is addiction a disease? Is alcoholism genetic? What is the best method of treatment? Does incarceration work? Medication assisted recovery or abstinence based recovery? Harm reduction? Self-help or treatment? Are addicts and alcoholics a cancerous mass of ill-equipped individuals incapable of making right decisions?  Do they simply not have the right amount of will-power? Did they fall on the short-side of the law of averages?  

I too, like many, have opinions on (D.) all of the above. But I’m traveling to a new station and getting off the train. It’s something like a cup-too-full educational enlightenment that is equal parts detaching, painful and freeing. I don’t want to argue. I don’t want to be right or wrong. The ne plus ultra is just within reach: none of the opinions, the premises, the propositions or the conclusions, not one atomic trace of it actually matters. Repeat: none of it matters. 

After the dust settles, take a deep breath and blow off the facts. Get a clean rag and clean them up nice: There are millions of people hurting. People who can’t stop using drugs. Can’t stop drinking alcohol. Thousands of people sitting in a room, right now, with themselves or surrounded by people that feel entirely alone, driven to loneliness by self-perpetuating loneliness. People who can’t stop hurting or harming themselves in some way, anyway, just to find ever-elusive relief. Those are not opinions. Those are facts.

I assure you these people are not arguing opinions. They are not sending out 130 character tweets about morality or opining on Facebook. 

These people are dying. Death by a thousand cuts.

This isn’t a soap box. For those of you thinking this writer is doing the very thing he’s standing up against – I challenge you to open your mind. This is a message to myself, to my peers and my fellows, to my friends and my family, to be better. Instead of debating opinions, let’s debate drug treatment solutions. Let’s compromise. Let’s help. Every day I look back and see decisions I made or interactions I had where I could have been better. But sometimes I think well is good enough. I write this because I don’t want my good to be good enough. I want to constantly improve. Constantly learn and grow. Constantly reach out my hand to someone in need. Learn how to find grace and be gracious. 

I am consistently amazed at what large groups of people unified in common cause can accomplish. This nation was built on it. Let us unite. In compassion. In empathy. In hope. Let’s unite in our desire to help those afflicted no matter the affliction. Let’s unite in the facts. 


Brett Tiberio
Vice President