Our society has an incredible bias against people who are struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. The stigma permeates through pop culture, politics, and everyday life. If we want to make drug addiction a thing of the past, let’s start by reducing this stigma.
My first exposure to heroin was via a 1994 cult film, when I was just a kid. The Crow, with Brandon Lee was world opening to me in a lot of ways. Brandon Lee’s character is killed at the hands of a terrifying movement that pilliages and burns the city every Halloween. Lee’s character comes back from the dead with a magical vengeance as The Crow, an undead supernatural power, imbued with the intelligence and craft of the black bird represented in the title. The movie was everything a tween wanted in a film, Brandon Lee was stunning, just the right amount of goth to attract a larger portion of the population, and quite startlingly also dead. The actor died during production from an accidental gunshot wound which somehow increased the movie’s hold on me. The mystery and morbidity was difficult to look away from.
One of the most memorable scenes, sorry for the spoilers if you haven’t seen it, is a moment when the movie’s villain is shooting up and helping his barely conscious girlfriend shoot up heroin in a dirty building while it falls down around him. Even to the end, this guy was dedicated to nothing more than his own next high, I remember thinking. As he slid the needle into his vein you could see relief. With this sort of heroin exposure, I believed, at least at that young age, that heroin was something bad people did. In fact that is how drugs were always presented to me as a kid.
Yet Another Problem with Media
It’s no wonder we look at drug addiction, Opioid addiction especially, as being something only lazy, or angry, or criminal people do. The way addicts are represented in popular media, especially through the 1980’s and 90’s used fear tactics to try and convince addicts to walk away from their destructive habits, or sober people to deride them, in an effort to dissuade the addiction even further.
The thing is addicts are, often, not bad people. There’s so much more nuance there. Often addicts are just people who have bent under the weight of their own shame, or who are so desperate for pain relief that they become addicted to opioids. Genetics and environmental factors apply as well. The thing is, addiction is so much more complicated than any of us ever learned through pop culture and even in some Dare program or its offshoots in elementary school.
Addicts need compassion, care, love. With support these people can find hope. If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, show them you care by talking with them about medically supervised alcohol detox, about therapy and rehab. Or if they’re addicted to an Opioid, talk with them about Opiate withdrawal symptoms. Ask them how you can help them get to a drug and alcohol rehab program in Florida. They can get help. They deserve a life of sobriety and good health, sometimes all someone needs is an ally.