The following dialogue between O.D. and a student at Michigan State University double majoring in Psychology and Sociology offers a personalized perspective on the issue of addiction seen through the lens of an observer. He shares his personal experiences in watching classmates struggle with drug use.
What are your thoughts on addiction?
Getting into hard drugs and substances seems pretty easy, even quick, unfortunately getting out of using them is just the opposite. A lot of friends have told me they don’t remember slipping out of normalcy into unhealthy habits and isolation. I’ve seen the change in my friends. In their lack of interest outside of everything but a substance. I’ve seen the amount of work it takes to break drug habits and fight emotional pain brought on by an addicts’ lies and behaviors.
Have you had any personal experience with it?
I watched my friends very early on develop addictive habits. I had a lot of friends in high school that started using drugs. Using everything from crystal meth to opiates including heroin. There was also a lot of drinking, which didn’t seem so bad compared to a lot of the other things going around. I remember looking and seeing the change in my friends.
How did their behavior change?
I watched my fellow students become more on edge. They experienced the pressures of daily life and school more intensely, often struggling to control their emotions. The most noticeable change, visibly, was a disheveled appearance. Some of them started showing up late to school, some stopped showing up at all, they stopped acting like themselves. Some of my friends stopped doing the things they loved and quit being social. Certain people would all hang out together, and you kind of knew which groups were up to trouble. They even lost interest in the sports they had previously loved to compete in.
What do you think kept you from addiction?
Honestly, my physical health has always been a major priority in my life. My immune system is not the greatest, so I have always monitored myself closely in comparison to my peers. Also, working in my field you can experience random drug testing and it’s very important to me that I continue this career. I have worked and volunteered through several agencies centered on youth advocacy. I watched my friends downward spiral and I don’t want to watch other teenagers go through that same trouble.
Could you tell me specifics that stuck out about some of your friends?
A good friend of mine fell out of touch with me during the end of high school. I heard he got involved in drugs, recently he reached out to me, and confirmed a lot of what I had been hearing. It was a reminder that I need to stay away from that path. I’m grateful I was able to see the affects these hardships can have on someone. I want to prevent that for others. I have been able to provide resources to the friend I mentioned and am thankful to be a positive influence in his life.
What are your thoughts on overdoses, are you familiar with Narcan?
If you overdose you are running from something. My friend overdosed twice. Come to think of it, Narcan is the drug that saved his life.
How do you feel about the social stigma surrounding addiction?
The perception is addicts are lazy and live off the welfare system. There is no compassion for the individual. We label one another, as a society, instead of helping each other. We need to get better at offering resources and asking the right questions. Many people will say, “I could have been there for you,” or, “you should have let me help you.” They say they will be there, but the problem is they don’t know how to be there. Addiction is a hard, arguably impossible, issue to tackle alone. They say these things because they don’t know how to offer support.
How do we better combat addiction?
We need to continue to aggressively integrate it into our education. The disturbing MTV commercials are necessary. It’s not about scaring kids but they need to know the truth behind drug use and bad habits. We need to answer their questions. The progression of addiction is lethal. Also, it’s important to note, your internal mind can be more dangerous to you than your environment.
How do we educate kids whose parents are addicts?
We need specific counselors. We need to break the shame behind talking about our problems. We need to not persecute the sufferers, and work on identifying lines. There is an Opioid epidemic in Michigan. We need to save lives. It is the humane thing to do, to reach out and support one another. We often judge other people and the way they live their lives, we need to stop judging and start understanding. I’m not able to know why someone does what they do, I am not them.
Do you support Open Discussion Apparel?
Absolutely, I’m excited to see this being done. I think in the future perhaps we can see more teenagers integrated into O.D. Apparel in a positive way. Then they can share their stories, as well as triumphs. I hope to see people of all ages coming together to speak on such an essential and heavy issue. There is a reason why people don’t talk about this issue. We need to educate teachers, lawmakers, and the general public by raising awareness from the addicts perspective.