As the beginning of the school year is behind us and our children have either returned to their familiar school environment or have begun a new journey, I would like to further the conversation about drug use. I strongly urge us to recognize that it is not acceptable to shy away from this rampant problem. Drug use is real and it exists everywhere! It should not be excusable for us to say that it cannot happen to our children, in our schools, in our homes or in our community. Substance use has become an intolerable issue, which quietly and secretly has become tolerable, albeit completely by way of choosing to ignore the problem by not speaking about it.
Why is it that we choose to overlook such a dangerous and life-threatening issue? Why does this topic go undiscussed until it stares us coldly and relentlessly in the face by taking away our loved ones in both an emotional and sometimes, sadly, physical manner? Perhaps we are too afraid that such a tragedy could happen to someone we know. Maybe we are aware but cannot bring ourselves to relate with such a thought. Sometimes we even plausibly assume our child (father, mother, sibling or loved one) is just experimenting and that it’s just a phase that will pass. Unfortunately, this may not always be the case. Worse yet—we may not even be able to identify that a problem exists. It may not always be the case but if something feels terribly off it most likely is, and drug use may be the culprit.
Sure, one can argue that drugs offer a way to avoid the insufferable pain and problems we wish we didn’t have to face. They can offer a sense of control in instances when we feel we have none. It can even feel like drugs can offer an escape from whatever it is that plagues us. However, drugs do not deliver a solution to these troubles and heartaches. When the high subsides, the monsters and demons that have beleaguered us for so long show their true face. They reveal to us that they have been there all along but have only been masked by the promise of redemption.
Even more treacherous and risky is when this course takes place during the very fragile and formidable adolescent years. When this occurs the slippery road to dependent use or addiction becomes ingrained. It becomes second nature. When anxiety and feelings of overwhelming fear are all that one can see, when the thought of living up to the high standards and expectations that are placed on kids today as high school students (though this may occur with adults as well) inch closer and closer, the young adolescent mind (which has been scientifically proven to not yet be fully developed) may be too naïve and cannot comprehend that the troubles ailing it are not of apocalyptic magnitude. Nevertheless, there is a way of making change happen. Even more importantly there is a way of ensuring that this change can be long lasting.
There is a way out. There is a way to deal with our difficulties in a direct and head-on approach that does not involve drug use. Throughout my professional experience I have witnessed amazing and impossible things happen. I have seen and worked with people that many have thought could make a change and would never lead a happy life. What I see in such situations is not hopelessness but rather an opportunity to remember that change is an inevitability. It occurs one way or another. The question is, would we like it to be affirmative and complete?
Today I would like to stress one very important thing. If you know someone who is using drugs, whether they are experimenting, using, abusing or even addicted – do not turn away. Those who are struggling need our help. For those of us who are not standing idly by and are fully aware that they might have a problem or even know they have a problem, please remember that our loved ones need our love and support. They need to know that we understand and are mindful of the fact that life may throw us a curve ball every now and again. Yes, it may seem like the pains, fears and anxieties are taking over! It may even feel like these emotional states will never subside, but I can say with certainty that dealing with such feelings and working out one’s emotions in a therapeutic setting with the help of a professional does deliver the promise of positive change and hope.
Let us no longer react to the news of drug use with anger and disappointment, frustration and intolerance, but with sincerity and concern. Let us be understanding and recognize that there is something below the surface that needs our undivided attention. I implore us all to take a stand. How many more times are we going to write about and speak about the issue, only briefly and only when something happens? How many more beautiful souls, whether young or old, must be lost in such a senseless and purposeless fashion?
Please remember it is never too late and never impossible.
By Assaf Amos
Assaf Amos is a dually licensed LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) and LCADC (Licensed Clinical Alcohol and Drug Counselor). Throughout Assaf’s clinical experiences, he has worked in both individual and group counseling settings for the New Jersey Department of Corrections as well as for Carepoint Health, Hoboken University Medical Center, where he is currently the director of substance abuse services at the Giant Steps Program. Assaf is also the owner at the Amos Center for Wellness and Recovery, where he works in private practice with a wide variety of clients seeking mental health treatment and specializes in addictions counseling. If you would like to contact him, you can do so at [email protected] or at 201-817-9962.