Who knows best?

Often, people will make decisions for their loved ones that they think will improve their lives. Even with good intentions, however, there is tremendous risk of unwanted intervention. This is especially relevant to the issue of drug addiction. On one hand, a person who is addicted to drugs will be in altered mental states, and if they use heavily and over many years they can have some cognitive damage. This can, therefore, be reasonably conjectured to have some effect on their decision-making processes regarding their future health.

On the other hand, there are also millions of users who have not been using for prolonged periods or at extreme levels. They may be in altered states of mind when they are in the act of using, but many common drugs do not leave people so permanently altered after one use that they cannot make daily life decisions for themselves. So therefore, a person cannot argue, for example, that someone who is addicted to painkillers is then mentally unable to decide for themselves what they want. 

I think this realization is the hardest for parents to make. If they find one of their children using, they may feel the need to force that child to go to rehab and maybe even start seeing a counselor. The parents would see these actions as justified because they have good intentions in trying to maintain a healthier lifestyle for their child without a drug addiction. Even if the child was extremely resistant and declared they did not want rehabilitation, the parents would perhaps blatantly ignore their wishes because of their belief in their self-justified good intentions overriding that child’s personal wishes. 

I am not here to argue that drugs, addictions or any combination of the two are good. But I do see a cyclical trend in teenage drug use that I believe could be stopped with a feasibly simple change. People, and parents especially, need to listen to the wants of their children more. Again, I am not saying parents should agree with their children if they say their drug addiction is fine and they do not want any help at all, but I truly believe forcing a child into rehabilitation can be detrimental. 

I have two family members who I love dearly and who both struggle with drug use. I have seen their addiction destroy their relationships with everyone around them, and I have seen it take everything away from them that they love, at times even coming close to taking their lives. I do not blame anyone who tried to help them by pushing rehabilitation or religious-based programs onto them. However, I know those attempts only made it worse for them. 

I was lucky enough to be able to communicate via mail with my family members who struggled with drug use while each one was incarcerated, and in doing so I realized just how important self-will is and how closely it is tied to self-worth. Each of these family members was already struggling with feelings of self-worth when they turned to drugs for an escape, and then having multiple family members come and try to take away what was left of their self-worth by treating them like misbehaved children only made it much worse. 

Both of my family members were in clear mental states, but unfortunately, many people in my family saw them instead as being incapable of making safe life decisions for themselves anymore. After communicating with my family members while they were incarcerated, I ascertained that one of the hardest things to deal with when facing drug addiction is the backlash one gets from their own family. Yes, their family might mean well and, yes, they may have good intentions. However, by stripping away that person’s will and ability to make their own decisions, they are projecting onto them a stereotyped image of a drug user who is mentally incapable of handling adult life on their own. 

My family members who got involved in drug use were not blameless and their own decisions got them into the places and situations they later strongly regretted. But I truly believe that forcing either one of them to go to a rehabilitation center against their will helped nothing. Instead, talking to and, moreover, listening to what that person has to say about themselves and their future is what I believe to be most important. 

Although just listening to a drug addict may not solve anything more than forcing them into rehab would, at least it will let them know that you care about them, that you want to hear what they have to say and that at least one person in this messed-up world is there to support them.