First lady Melania Trump recently found herself sitting in a makeshift conference room in the middle of West Virginia – a far cry from New York City or Washington D.C. – and it wasn’t because she wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of big-city life. She was there to visit Lily’s Place – a facility that speaks to just how serious America’s drug addiction epidemic has become.
West Virginia’s Problem is America’s Problem
Lily’s Place is the first of its kind in the country. It works with addicted mothers and their children – many of whom were born with drug dependencies. The nonprofit was opened in 2014 and cares for roughly 100 infants per year.
“I want to be here to support you and give a voice to Lily’s Place and also for the opioid epidemic,” the first lady said during the meeting. “We need to open the conversation to children and young mothers how it’s dangerous to use drugs and get addicted to it.”
According to the CDC, West Virginia has the highest rate of babies born with drug dependencies. While the national rate is 5.8 per 1,000 hospital births, there are 33.4 per 1,000 in West Virginia.
Lily’s Place is obviously a godsend for dozens of mothers and their children each year, but the fact that we need places like this speaks to just how bad things really are. West Virginia’s problem is America’s problem; it’s time that we do something about drug addiction in this country.
It Starts With You
You might not be addicted to drugs, but the solution starts with you. As a friend, parent, sibling, teacher, coworker, boss, or coach, it’s up to you to keep an eye on the people you interact with and help them through their struggles. Here are a few specific things to keep in mind:
1. Learn to Spot Traits of Addiction
The first thing you should know how to do is spot the common traits of addicts. While every case is unique, common behavioral warning signs include neglecting responsibilities, engaging in risky behavior, sudden changes in friends, and an unexplained need for money. Physical warning signs include bloodshot eyes, changes in appetite, sudden weight loss, slurred speech, and impaired coordination.
2. Know What You Can’t Do
Knowing how to spot addiction is one thing, but what can you do to help? And what can’t you do?
First off, you should never try to bring someone off drugs on your own. “Without professional supervision and medication to mitigate withdrawal symptoms, the risks of detox health complications and relapse substantially increase,” American Addiction Centers explains. You can get a friend to the point where they’re ready to come off a drug, but it’s best to leave the actual detoxing to the professionals.
You also need to accept the fact that you can’t do the work of recovery for them. No matter how much you want them to stop, they have to put in the effort required to actually stop and stay off drugs.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Initiate Discussion
A lot of people are afraid to have a conversation about drug addiction with a friend or loved one because they fear it’ll become confrontational. And while there’s always the risk of confrontation, you can’t worry about your own feelings. A discussion on the topic could save your friend’s life. Are you willing to put them at risk by not having a conversation as soon as you should?
4. Offer Your Love and Support
Above all else, you need to offer your unconditional love and support. Walking with a loved one through a bout with drug addiction is an up and down challenge. There will be times where you think they’ve kicked the habit, only to realize that they haven’t. In these moments, you have the choice to give up or keep offering support. Choose the latter.
Putting it All Together
It’s easy to feel as if drug addiction is “someone else’s problem.” After all, you’ve made smart choices and have stayed away from drugs, while others have made the decision to throw it all away. It doesn’t work like that, though.
Do we look at people who suffer from mental illnesses and say, “They should have been more careful!” No, we help them. And while there’s certainly a voluntary/conscious aspect to most drug addiction situations, you can’t let that prevent you from extending compassion and help.
Whenever you think about the drug addiction epidemic in this country, pause for a moment and picture Lily’s Place in West Virginia. Picture those babies who didn’t ask to be born with a dependence on heroin or opioids. Picture those families and acknowledge the seriousness of the problem we have in this country.