Drug threat is real, but so are the users

We all carry around our ideas of how the world works. We’ve all heard that drugs are dangerous, that they wreck people’s lives. Many of us may also have our mental image of a drug user—a doper, a derelict, somebody we wouldn’t willingly spend a moment with.

But if you talk to some of the people who meet and work with drug abusers—the people who are so dependent on needle drugs and pain pills that their lives unravel—one of the things you’ll be surprised to learn is that these people are not caricatures. They do not fit any single description. They could be anyone. Given a misstep, an accident, a bad choice, they could be you, too.

That was one of the surprises for me in Reporter Carol Ladwig’s series on the costs and realities of the Valley’s drug scene. We called it “Addiction’s hidden costs,” but we tried to learn as much about the ways for people to be free of addiction as the ways in which drugs are punishing the people of the Valley.

Drugs are costing our Valley. Anyone who’s had their possessions stolen or their home or car burgled should understand this. Anyone with someone in their lives who is personaly dealing with the fallout of addiction knows it, too. The numbers are worrisome. Snoqualmie Community Health Network’s latest student survey says that more than one in 10 local high school seniors have tried prescription drugs to get high. Half of those teens got them for free from a friend.

Prescription drugs kill more people in this state than meth, cocaine and heroin combined. And pill use is on the rise, set to overtake meth as the biggest drug problem in the state.

Boredom, curiosity and simple opportunity drive people to try these drugs. Once hooked, it can take only a few weeks for the pleasure of the high to turn into the fear of withdrawal. Users face the physical pain of days of withdrawal along with other side effects—for needle users, we’re talking about festering sores, heart and liver and breathing problems, and so on. But the dependency is so great, it takes serious motivation to be free.

It’s ironic that as our drugs become more powerful, better able to save lives, people still find ways to abuse them, trading a burst of pleasure for long-term dependency. But we’re not helpless in the face of addiction, nor are we alone.

Understand that there is always hope, and ever more sophisticated ways to get your life back. Snoqualmie Valley doctors, recovery center staff, church support groups and youth advocates are all on the side of the dependent, helping provide the physical and mental strength to break free.

Clearly, addicts can never win this struggle alone. But when they’re ready, someone can help.

There is a lesson to be drawn from stories like that of Raechel Femling, the former heroin user who is now courageously putting her life back together, a step at a time.

We must all be aware of drugs’ power to addict—but also of our power to overcome, together.

We may be a small community, but no-one should feel alone. In this tight-knit Valley, where it seems like everyone knows everyone else, that tightness should give us strength to beat addiction and to help people—real people, I remind you, our neighbors around us—who are ready to be free of it.

If you need a resource to beat addiction, see our related story.

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