Do we really need to keep arguing about choice?

In response to the following post…



Typically when we think of a habit, we think of a regularly practiced tendency that is difficult to give up. But there are other definitions of a “habit” such as it is a person’s “bodily condition”. So you are right, addiction is a habit. But the definition this post is implying isn’t the one that was intended when society adopted the term, “habit” in relation to addiction. A person who has an addiction to drugs or alcohol depends on such substances, and therefore habitually uses. It’s a bodily condition because the way drugs work in our bodies, they have the ability to chemically alter the rest of our body, including the way we are wired to think and act. And regardless of which definition you, or anyone applies to it, it does not negate the fact that addiction is a health issue.

For so long society has taught us to view addiction as a moral failing and “a poor choice” but society has done a really terrible job at backing that claim up with science, or any evidence for that matter. Addiction, or substance use disorder as referenced in the DSM5 –think of it as a dictionary for doctors and used for making diagnoses—backed by science- classifies addiction quite different from society’s collective, generalized viewpoint. I personally, prefer the science over generalizations, society’s definition of social norms or socially acceptable behavior, and completely irrelevant unsubstantiated claims- but that’s just me.

So now that we’ve established addiction is a health issue. Let’s address some other points in this post. Twice, the phrase, “addiction is a choice” appears. I think this should be repeated ….silently….in one’s head…until the phrases implications really sinks in. “Addiction is a choice” implies people wake up and decide, “today I’m going to become addicted to drugs”. I find that hard to believe and think anyone with a smidgen of intelligence would agree that of the millions addicted to drugs, most if not all, didn’t wake up and make a choice to be addicted. So now that we’ve let that sink in, let’s just stop with the “addiction is a choice”. It was false the first time it was said. It is still false now. And it’s going to be false ten minutes from now.

Let’s focus on something in this post that is true. Before the drugs or pills you did not have an addiction. This makes me giggle because that’s just logic. But what does this statement do to negate addiction as a health issue? Before 8 years ago I didn’t have anxiety. Before 5 years ago I didn’t have PTSD. Before 6 months ago, I didn’t have polycystic ovarian syndrome. Before yesterday I didn’t have a migraine. But things change, including health, and now I do. And it’s weird because I totally didn’t decide to get ANY of them. Weird.

Interestingly, I’ve been given prescriptions for some of my health inflictions and some of them have highly addictive qualities. (I happen to be fortunate to know quite a bit more than the average person about a solid percentage of medications. And further, to have a doctor who will spend a full hour with me addressing questions and consulting with my pharmacist. But I wonder how many people get that type or treatment. Because I know one too many people who became addicted from prescription drugs following necessary treatment).

Regardless, of treatment procedures or “weak minds” or lack or self-control, as referenced in this post. What makes it ok to devalue a human life? And what kind of human does that devaluing? Debate that. Because “choosing to debate the science of addiction without the expertise”…..<—-well that, just read that til it sinks in.


P.S. I’m not done

A follow up to Mr. Vincent’s post on Narcan

People like to poke holes, I get it. I wanted this to be a discussion, so let’s discuss! Below are some comments I’ve seen in response to David Vincent’s status and our letter to him. (note: I used “narcan” and “naloxone” interchangeably. It’s a matter of name brand versus generic)

“Comparing apples to oranges. Cancer is cellular malfunction. Addiction is a mental disorder. Narcan is a once lifesaving measure to revive. Narcan does not cure addiction.”

-So true! That’s said, going back to Mr. Vincent’s post… Narcan is not treatment. Narcan is a life-saving opiate antagonist which reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Not only is it not a cure, but it does not even treat addiction. Comparing narcan to chemo is not a realistic comparison.

“I was even more surprised to see my old roommate from rehab who’s still using post it. Why the self hate?”

-Good question! We have an idea why. Perhaps it’s because despite the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th edition (DSM5), American culture hasn’t caught up with science’s understanding of addiction. This is evident by Mr. Vincent’s status. People with an addiction see posts like that, the comments that follow, and the mass amount of people who devalue their lives. How are people supposed to get help in a society that thinks they are better off dead? Whether Mr. Vincent intend to, he effectively reinforced a negative stigma that prevents PEOPLE from getting healthy.

It’s high past time we acknowledge addiction as a health issue not moral one. It wouldn’t be fair to assume another’s intentions. But I will say reinforcing that stigma could have been avoided. I question why instead of “narcan for addicts” (individual who suffers with a mental health disorder), Mr. Vincent didn’t reference insulin for those who suffer with diabetes. Since neither insulin nor narcan are free, this would have been a fair switch.

“They are giving away narcan at the local methadone clinic in the parking lot”

-Methadone is an opioid. Narcan reverses opioid overdose. (Personally, I think anytime someone is prescribed or being treated with an opioid, they should be taught about the addictive qualities and also be prescribed naloxone.) Also, someone at some point paid for that narcan so it could be given to those who need it.

“point being made is addicts need to be held accountable for their actions ,even when I was using , if I had ever needed it I would expect to be charged for it , I don’t expect anything for myself coming out of someone else’s pockets”

– It is appreciated that you don’t expect anything for yourself to come from someone else’s pocket. However, if it was a matter of your life or death -as is the case when naloxone is needed- know that I would choose your life. Without evening knowing you, from one human to another, I’d pick saving your life. If I had the ability, and the means, such has having a vile of naloxone that I paid for, I’d use it on you. I can’t imagine walking away from you, a human being, knowing I have the power to save your life and just choosing not to.

I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect a little human decency.

As for responsibility, what should they be held responsible for? Being ill? The cost of narcan provided by the police? The police sign up to protect and serve. The police departments we’ve trained to carry and administer naloxone, also carry defribulators, they don’t charge a fee for that life-saving service. Why should naloxone be any different?

Perhaps this isn’t the case with every department, but maybe it should be. And finally, how often do we attend fundraisers for addiction treatment? Is there a three day walk by some well-known foundation traveling around the country raising money for addiction medicine research? Millions of “other” people’s dollars go into cancer research to find a cure. Can we say the same about a cure for addiction?
“Addiction has def [definitely] affected our lives.. but i don’t necessarily agree with narcan. I feel like it makes addicts [individuals who suffer with a mental health disorder] think they can always be saved…which isn’t the case”

People who are addicted to drugs have and will continue to use drug regardless of if naloxone is available. This is obvious by the amount of people who used before narcan was invented and made accessible and also by the amount of overdoses we see.

“Narcan is not free but my brothers life is worth more than a petty $672.80. I thank God for narcan!”

-Perfectly said. A person’s life is worth it.

A letter to David Vincent

A letter to Mr. David Vincent (and those sharing his post),

I’ve seen your Facebook post, as so many have. I think it’s worth a discussion.

I’ll start by admitting, I’m not sure I understand the placement of the quotation marks in your incredible inaccurate status. Unless it is there to imply sarcasm in regards to the word “free” given narcan is not free.

What makes you think it is free?

Narcan, or naloxone, is $5000 for the auto-inject, $150 for the nasal spray, and $45 for the vile and syringe at Walgreens, last I checked.  It isn’t always covered by insurance, unlike “chemo”. (Again, what’s up with the quotations?) It is made available for “free” by nonprofit organizations like the one I operate, which PAYS for it, and then gives it away because who am I or you or anyone else to judge the value of another person’s life?

Fun fact for you: The auto-inject naloxone was initially on the market for $400, but the price was raised to $5,000 as the demand for it increased. This may sound familiar if you are aware of Mylan’s appalling skyrocketing price of the epi-pen for anaphylaxis. One might argue pharmaceutical manufacturers see people’s lives as a matter of making profit. That said, if you want to have some kind of feelings or opinion about who gets treatment and who doesn’t…take it up with big pharma, start a nonprofit, or dish out the cash for someone else’s treatment. But deciding who gets to live and who gets to die based on YOUR interpretation of a disease – opposed to the definition in the DSM5 – is ignorant. And further, this uneducated “analogy” doesn’t actually help anyone. It does however, say a lot about the quality of individual who wrote it and arguably about those who share it. If the goal of posting it was to benefit cancer patients, it does absolutely nothing of the sort. What it does do, is hinder those who see it, who suffer with an addiction, from getting help. Perhaps helping people with addiction isn’t important to you or those who share it, but is it necessary to put those people down? That’s the only thing your status has accomplished. That and putting down the work of people who fought to change the laws to make narcan accessible.

You want to do something for cancer patients? Then actually do something! You can even call me up and I will gladly help you navigate setting up a 501c3, raise funds, donate my time and money, and hit up Washington as I’ve done for addiction. I’ll do it all without downplaying another health crisis and judging the value of another’s life.