Guest commentary: Let not your loss to drug addiction be in vain

We all know someone who has lost a loved one or friend to addiction. The loss from addiction comes in many forms. The physical death, or the material and emotional losses, not only affect the person who suffers from addiction, but their families and loved ones.

My experience in the helping profession has taught me that addiction has no prejudice. It will make anyone its victim — the affluent and the economically challenged; the A student as well as the grappling D student; the young, the middle-aged and the elderly; the individual and the entire family.

More than 22 million Americans struggle with addiction. Millions more — family members, friends and colleagues — are touched by the disease every day. The drug-related death rate roughly doubled from the late 1990s to 2006. Recent studies show that in 16 states and counting, drugs now kill more people than auto accidents.

As a community, we can no longer stand by and watch addiction ruin lives, families and neighbors. Each of us can make a difference. Sometimes that difference is just looking a young person in the eye and telling them the truth — drugs kill. They kill your dreams, your relationships and your life.

Taking a first step to preventing substance abuse can mean getting in touch with your own loss and using the experience to help others. In fact, “Four Generations Overcoming Addiction,” Hazelden’s national public-awareness campaign, demonstrates how prevention and treatment includes generations within the same family.

“What’s so unique about Hazelden’s campaign is that most previous antidrug programs passed moral judgments such as ‘Just say no,’ used shock tactics such as ‘This is your brain on drugs’ or limited their focus only to what parents should say to their children,” says Mike Mishek, Hazelden’s president and CEO.

Mishek further explains that “in today’s more complex society, a grown child may need to speak with a 75-year-old parent about addiction to pain medication, or a teenager may be wondering how to get through to a parent who is drinking too much.”

A vigil for hope might be your first step.

Thursday’s candlelight NOPE Vigil to be held on the Collier County Courthouse steps at 6:30 p.m. might be your first step to getting in touch with your loss, or showing your concern for the community.

It is dedicated to those who have lost loved ones and friends to addiction and to people who are still struggling with addiction, or are in recovery. It is a national effort by the Narcotic Overdose Prevention and Education (NOPE) Task Force and we invite you to participate. Drug Free Collier and its partners support people who have been affected by substance abuse and who are in recovery, and pay tribute to those who support them.

Together we can break the stigma of addiction and raise community awareness that addiction is a preventable and a treatable disease. Recovery is an essential component to prevention and involves not only the recovering addict, but the family unit. Let not your loss be in vain. Use your experience to help prevent addiction in Collier County. Get involved with Drug Free Collier.

If you would like additional information regarding the NOPE Vigil, or to become an active member of Drug Free Collier, please contact our office at (239) 377-4994 or send me an e-mail:

© 2009 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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