I recently read a powerful memoir about opioid addiction called, “As Needed For Pain: A Memoir of Addiction”, by Dan Peres. It was reflective, funny, and insightful, and leaves the reader with many lessons on addiction.
Opioid addiction is often preceded by a prescription that is legal and medically-indicated. Perhaps the person had surgery or a procedure, or dealing with chronic pain. That first prescription is typically given by a legit medical professional and filled at a legit pharmacy. Science and psychology cannot fully explain why some people can start and are then able to stop, while others go on to become dependent.
Peres articulately describes what happens when something starts small and then becomes so big that your life doesn’t just become smaller– you watch life disintegrate before your eyes. And the many losses– loss of health, loss of relationships, loss of the ability to show up for life– they often are not obvious to the addict, and Peres shows just how powerful the mind can be when it comes to self-deception.
Like many mental health conditions, addiction can conjure up a certain image of what kind of person has the problem, what kind of background they come from, and what they look like in their active addiction. The truth is that there is no one “profile” of addiction, and internalizing that can make us more able to advance efforts in combating this widespread problem.
We all experience pain over the course of our lives, some more acutely than others. When we have pain, our suffering can make us vulnerable and at times, even desperate for relief of some sort. Not everyone who takes a painkiller will become an addict. But I find that removing the ‘us vs. them’ mindset about addicts– and challenging the voice that says it can’t happen to you or anyone close to you– is a crucial step in creating more awareness, more education, and more empathy.