A Response to Brianna Lyman's Article: “Stop Calling Your Drug Addiction a Disease”

A Response to Brianna Lyman's Article: “Stop Calling Your Drug Addiction a Disease”

The United States faces a number of problems, including a growing heroin epidemic but is that problem a disease?
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As I was browsing the interwebs early one morning, as most of us do most mornings, I stumbled upon an article posted by fellow Odyssey author Brianna Lyman. The title of her piece “Stop Calling Your Drug Addiction a Disease” caught my attention and I began to read. I acknowledge the argument she provides, as well as agree with it to an extent. However, I do believe that she has some short sited views on the issue of our Nations’s opioid epidemic.

In our wonderful world of modern western medicine, we love to prescribe a pill for literally every problem we can fathom. Hair loss? Take this. Wanna get skinny? Pop this. Got pain? We can fix that with a script. It is in my opinion, and the opinions of many others that we over prescribe medications, especially antibiotics, and opiate based pain relievers. Brianna Lyman seems to focus on heroin in her article, and for a lot of addicts, the opiate pain relief medication is where that addiction starts. Once that prescription runs out, it’s usually too late and the patient is physically dependent on said medication. What happens next, from what I know about opiate addictions is as follows. Said person’s script runs out, so that person, seeking relief from the awful symptoms of withdrawal takes to street corners for their next hit. But pills are expensive. So they resort to the next best thing which is heroin. It’s cheap, it’s available, and it’s making a comeback more successful than My Space when Ashton Kutcher bought it.

In her article, Brianna said “every drug addict made a choice”. Here is where we agree and disagree simultaneously. Are there addicts out there who just decided to tie off, plunge a needle in their vein, and shoot up? Absolutely. They’re the addicts that made a choice. But, for the type of addict I was referring to earlier, they didn’t make a choice, necessarily. In the United States, as I said, we have a pill for just about everything. It’s the way healthcare is in our culture. Doctors write scrips, the symptoms go away, and the real problem doesn't actually get solved. The same thing is happening in the population of drug addicts that inhabit the United States. Those of us who aren't addicts, will never understand the struggle of having a physical dependency to the toxin we call heroin. It’s important that we reserve our judgement here and help those who want it. I regret to say that because of the potency of heroin, because of some unsound rehabilitation techniques, the relapse rate is awfully high. Since “surrendering ones self to a higher power” and trying to work through the 12 step program doesn't exactly work all the time, I do believe that a more radical approach is necessary.

I was listening to NPR one day, many moons ago and they had an interview with an addict. This man was brave enough to go on air and talk about his addiction. He explained how badly the drug was messing him up, how awful he knew it was to him, his family, and those close to him, and badly he wanted to quit. One of his reasons for not being successful in kicking the monkey off his back was the not so good rehab treatment, and the fact that he felt ostracized by just about everyone. He explained that in doing that to addicts, it makes them feel as though the drug and fellow addicts are the only things near and dear to them. He also explained that if you want addicts to quit successfully, you should provide them with clean needles, show them love and support, and fight their addiction with them. Don’t kick them to the curb.

In conclusion, is addiction a disease? I think that is neither here nor there. Calling a physical dependency one name or another doesn't solve the issues of over prescribing opiates, a flawed rehabilitation treatment model, and the stigma that goes along with being an addict. If we are to battle and beat the heroin epidemic, we need to do it together. For example we could try and encourage those who work on Capital Hill to legalize cannabis based pain treatments. We could work to erase the negative stigma associated with addicts, and ultimately make them feel more comfortable approaching us for help. We could put our heads together and create a better rehabilitation program. We could do literally anything so long as we do it together. Brianna Lyman, I hope this reaches you, and I look forward to reading your thoughts.

Cover Image Credit: FotoMaximum

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I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.
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It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

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Narcan Trainings Should Be Just As Required As CPR Trainings, EVERY Human Has The Right To Survive

A life is a life, whether they're an addict or not.

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More than 63,600 people died of a drug overdose in 2016 and roughly two-thirds of these deaths were caused by opioids, killing more people than car accidents, guns, or breast cancer. The opioid epidemic is in full swing and no one is immune to the damage being caused by it — not celebrities, not young people, not anyone. At a time when our life expectancy is falling for the first time since the 60s and a fifth of all deaths among Americans aged 24 to 35 are due to opioids, it has never been more necessary to get life-saving means into the hands of individuals everywhere.

Luckily, these kinds of life-saving means do exist. Naloxone, more commonly known as Narcan, is a medication designed to rapidly reverse an opioid overdose by binding to opioid receptors and reversing and blocking the effects of other opioids, often available in either a nasal spray or injection. Trainings are usually free and pop up in most communities every month or so. From 1996 to 2014, at least 26,500 opioid overdoses in the U.S. were reversed by laypersons using Narcan and Narcan prescriptions filled at U.S. pharmacies increased 1170% between 2013 and 2015.

The potential is incredible. Unfortunately, it's not necessarily being reached. Most laypersons are not Narcan trained, either because they don't know what it is or they don't think they'll ever be around someone who overdoses. But just like we get CPR trained just in case something ever happens, we should all be getting Narcan trained, as well. While most of us probably don't think we'll ever end up in that situation, it happens. And it can mean the difference between life and death.

As Dr. Stephen Jones, a researcher with the CDC says, "In order for [Narcan] to be most effective, we need to get it into the hands of people who are most likely to be on the scene of an overdose." That's why initiatives that bring Narcan to people who use themselves are so important. No one wants their friend to die. But the truth is, no community is untouched by this epidemic. The more people we get Narcan trained, the fewer people we will see die from something absolutely preventable. And the more people will have a chance to recover and get their lives back.

A lot of jobs require CPR training, and a lot of companies arrange for a day of training so their employees can learn how to intervene in an emergency situation. Narcan training should be just required. A life is a life, whether they're an addict or not.

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