Abuse and Addiction

Anthony Toparis, third year medical student at the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine

September 6, 2012

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence nearly 40 million Americans are addicted to illegal drugs or suffer from alcohol abuse. While these numbers are staggering, it is even more disheartening to consider the billions of dollars spent to meet the healthcare needs of these individuals. Whether it is illegal drugs, prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco or even gambling, the impact of these addictions are felt not only by the individual but also by their family, community, and the entire healthcare system. From TV ads to billboards, a great amount of money has been spent on educating the public in hopes to “awaken” those entrapped by these terrible addictions. However, it appears that people (young and old) have a large understanding of the risks and terrible outcomes associated with their dangerous habits. The fact is, they simply refuse to take the necessary steps to help themselves. I have seen people sit down and say they are fully aware of the effects they are having on their health, yet somehow are able to create excuses to justify not making a change. I personally feel that a lot of addicts would quit if they could just become motivated. Mentally, for many addicts, quitting is an all or none predicament, but by simply setting reasonable goals at the onset will provide a healthier approach. For example, simply setting a quit date and maintaining a day to day journal is a positive first step in the right direction. With the support of friends and family, as well as close monitoring from a trusted outside individual (family doctor, councilors, etc.) I believe we could see healthy lifestyle choices made.

Furthermore, I feel that people also lack the knowledge of available local resources. During my brief time in Madison, I was able to find many resources available to addicts including online organizations as well as state and local based aid. Here locally, there are a number of churches with councilors standing by ready to help. These include: Madison Methodist Church (369-1262), New Hope Baptist Church (369-5467), Fountain of Life Worship Center (369-4760). A few State based resources Include: WV Narcotics Anonymous (1-800-766-4442), WV Smoking Quitline (1-800-QUIT-NOW). Additionally, there are many great online non-profit entities including: and just to mention a few.

However, I truly believe the best resource is simply your family doctor. He or she can sit down and discuss the help you need, while at the same time aid in creating a personal plan of action tailored around your life. It would be true to say it begins and ends with you, but in the middle there can be a team of people willing to help every step of the way. Abuse and addiction is a chronic problem and like a chronic disease it requires continual maintenance and close follow up, but the resources required are out there. So start today, and take control of your life back.