Treating addiction takes more than a prison cell
Drug addiction is a major problem in Hawaii. Very few families have escaped unscathed by the effects of addiction on a loved one.
While these family members struggle to cope, impressionable young children in all our families are at risk. Peer pressure and the youthful feeling of invincibility compound their vulnerability.
Only through education will our state's teachers, parents and children learn to recognize and understand the telltale signs of addiction, its consequences and available treatment.
Addiction is a mental illness that recognizes no age, racial or social barriers. Addicts suffer a persistent, compulsive need to use, regardless of the possible consequence. The first experimental use is followed by recreational abuse, expanding to daily dependence, and finally to a full-blown addiction. Each phase can last from weeks to years, with access and affordability as the keys to progression.
Once addicted, there is no cure and there is no deterrent. The full-blown addict can no more heal himself without treatment than an unmedicated epileptic can prevent a seizure.
Telltale signs of substance abuse are indifference, irritability, lack of appetite, ferocious hunger and restlessness followed by long periods of sleep. Addicts also have difficulty making eye contact. Simply put, any unusual or abnormal behavior could be a sign of substance abuse.
The consequences of the abuse of both legal and illegal substances can be financial ruin, deteriorating health, loss of freedom and death.
The problems and proposed solutions to drug addiction are a constant source of debate. Historically, the most severe response to addiction is Mao Tse Tung's "Chinese Solution," where addicts were simply shot on sight, eliminating the possibility of a repeat offender.
A more modern approach is the "Denmark Plan" and the similar theory of harm reduction designed to reduce the murder and mayhem associated with illegal drug use through decriminalization, not to be confused with legalization.
A Hawaii task force has determined that treatment is a necessary tool in our war against drug abuse. However, in contradiction, our state statute provides for treatment in lieu of prison for first-time offenders only.
All addicts need help, and that help is available in licensed treatment facilities where addicts learn anger management, cognitive thinking, the 12-step program and relapse prevention. Because relapse is often a natural part of recovery, addicts and family members should deal with it in a positive manner, learning and moving on.
Addicts who believe substance addiction is a victimless crime obviously have not seen the tears in the eyes of their loved ones.
I am a former Honolulu Police Department officer, a licensed paralegal and an addict of 25 years. I am also an inmate of the Oahu Community Correctional Center. When it comes to addiction I know firsthand what I am talking about. If you have never used drugs, please don't start -- you will ruin your life. If you or someone you know about is using, please get help before it's too late.
Michael Spiker lives at the Oahu Community Correctional Center.