There are approximately 15,000 drug rehab centers in the United States in operation today. Approximately two million Americans suffer from substance use disorders related to drug and alcohol use. Over 70,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in 2018, with another 100,000 deaths from complications from drug and alcohol use not directly attributed to overdose.
An old saying, often misattributed Stalin, but actually dates much further back in history illustrates a tendency we have about how numbers abstract the human experience;
“If one person starves to death, it’s a tragedy. If millions starve to death, it’s a statistic.”
When someone is attempting to find help either through a New Jersey detox program or seeking longer term rehab in New Jersey, it’s very easy for them to feel like they’re just a statistic, unimportant. The greater population still largely perceived substance use disorder as a personal moral failing on the part of the person suffering, which dehumanizes them and then often that same person will have to go through facilities in which hundreds of thousands of people pass through with similar problems every year. Yet, to them, their experience is uniquely personal.
A person, in their life, will experience similar things as everyone else but in their own context, through their own life, through their own eyes. One person may remember the first time they got behind the wheel of a car, learning to drive; the sound of the engine of the truck, how big the felt sitting above the road, the responsibility they felt holding on to the big steering wheel and the care from their dad as he taught them how to shift gears for the first time. Another person who learned to drive might remember the car they had to repair to even get a chance to attempt driving, the parking lot of a grocery store they practiced alone in with their brother and the driving school they saved up for to get their license. Yet, both of these experience, unique as they are, can be distilled into a clinical number with millions of others; people with driver’s licenses.
Addiction is a widespread epidemic that continues to claim lives, wreck families and destroy communities as well as creating generational ripples of despair through time, where babies are born with addiction, others are born with a predisposition genetically to be easily addicted to drugs and alcohol, but all of these events are very real experiences to these people.
It’s important that we remember there’s someone underneath the bizarre self destructive and outwardly destructive behaviors. They have a life, a story, an origin and that being a statistic is not only dehumanizing, but ignoring any circumstance whatsoever the person may have endured which lead them into developing a substance use disorder is the most dehumanizing of all. No addict wants to be a slave to a substance and treating them like humans who share in the human experience is the best way to encourage them to find help.