This morning I listened to a radio interview with Dr. Gabor Mate, a Canadian physician, renowned speaker and bestselling author, with considerable expertise on a range of topics including addiction, stress and childhood development.
I have heard Dr. Mate speak in person, on one of his books, “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”, and have listened to radio and YouTube interviews with him on numerous occasions.
As I listened, I followed carefully, as he addressed the currently raging opioid crisis, and what can be done about it.
He declared that this was not an addiction problem but, rather, a social and political one, and that we must seek to understand its cause if we want to make it go away.
What we call addiction stems from one’s search to relieve suffering through temporary pleasure, and that suffering is so often caused by a disconnection from society; childhood trauma, feelings of hopelessness and alienation from nature, work and each other.
Thus drugs are used, or other addictive behaviors, to temporarily reduce the pain, even though the pain later returns. Consequently, the “War on Drugs” became a war on the most traumatized segment of our population. The U.S., with 4-5 percent of the world’s population, has 25 percent of the world’s prison population.
I was reminded that this societal pain is also the cause of other ills in our society; not only the current, terrible opioid addiction, but such problems as increased depression, homelessness, behaviors leading to high blood pressure and diabetes—among others.
Let us consider what we, as citizens of this community, can do to help resolve this painful situation? Here are a few ideas:
Live our daily lives in pursuit of societal inclusion rather than exclusion. As we go about each day, embrace the opportunities we have to greet and converse with others as our paths cross.
Stand up for listening to the other side of any question; a well- rounded view of every situation, idea, theory or proposal is much better than a lopsided view; also easier, and less expensive, in the long run. Avoid insisting on others adapting to your own political extremes, if you have such.
Get involved in local issues. Learn and support any or all of the issues that are important to you. Attend City Council meetings, or watch them on local TV. Join with one or more of the many worthwhile, active organizations in this community—reach out.
Perhaps one of the most important actions we can take is to petition, urge and, perhaps even, demand that our political representatives make free mental health care and treatment available to all: this is ever so much less expensive than treating for continuing opioid and other drug crises and keeping drug offenders in prison.
Prison care is much more costly than keeping a student in a state college.
Encourage decriminalization of drug use. Provide mental health treatment instead. This alone could cause an amazing improvement in the quality of life for a multitude of people.
If you are not familiar with the work of Dr. Gabor Mate, I urge you to check him out on YouTube, or just google him, and find out much more that will be helpful in understanding what is creating some of the ills of our society. You have nothing to lose.
Sally White is a Valencia resident.