We are at war. This is an invisible war except to those directly affected, but make no mistake, there is a war being waged. It is so invisible that chances are, at least one person you know is currently in the trenches. You may not even find out until you are at their funeral. 

That war is the war of addiction.

Addiction is a tricky enemy. It never rests, never quits, and can begin as soon as initial exposure to any number of substances or behaviors. This enemy changes the way you experience rewarding behaviors and enjoyable experiences. It can take away any semblance of what it means to live a normal, human life.

And the sad part is, nobody sets out to become addicted.

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The White House is now addressing this problem directly. In the prior Presidential Administration, President Obama hosted Macklemore for an informative talk about the artist’s personal struggle with drug addiction and how he was not only putting it behind him, but using his voice to fight addiction. President Obama historically commented that “addiction doesn’t always start in some dark alley – it often starts in a medicine cabinet”. They tweeted that opioid overdoses have tripled since 2000 and are now responsible for more accidental deaths than automobile accidents. The White House has even requested $1.1 billion for assistance with the opioid epidemic to help with expanding access to treatment.

And President Trump’s Administration has focused on combating opioid prescribing at the source and secured over $6 billion in funding for treatment of opioid addiction. Access to outpatient treatment has continued to rise across all age groups and we have seen reductions in new diagnoses for opioid use disorder for those aged 12 and older.

But the battle is far from over. 

This has grown far outside of the realm of casual drug users and can encompass anyone that has been prescribed narcotics for various pain-related issues. These could be incidental, such as necessary medication post-surgery, or it could be for those suffering from chronic pain. The underlying connection between them is not that they were not chasing an escape from today’s world through drugs, but rather were prescribed honest treatment for their health issues by a medical professional.

Perhaps most fundamental to understanding how addiction forms is that addictive substances or behaviors can biologically rewire our brains. There is a saying in the mental health community that “what fires together, wires together.” 

The enemy doesn’t discriminate how someone came in contact with substances or behaviors that became an addiction. And once your brain is rewired, relapsing is the natural course of the disease. In other words – continuing relapse is the expected behavior when facing such an enemy.

Societal stigma towards substance use and the need for treatment is a major problem. We need more education on what it means to be at war with a chemical imbalance, and the behaviors that come with it. People need to be freed from the fear and isolation that so often accompanies addiction.

For the best way to face an enemy is head on – together. We need all the help we can get.