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A Sobering Story: Gazette shines light on scourge of drugs

by on April 13, 2014 2:05 AM

Drug addiction. It is one of the most misunderstood diseases, and that is why it is often referred to as “The Disease of Shame.”

This series, which will appear in your newspapers over the next several Sundays, reflects The Indiana Gazette’s efforts to shine a light on the disease so our readers can have a better understanding of what it truly is.

Drug addicts are powerless to control themselves while they are in the throes of addiction. They may not have the ambition to get a job, but they are very capable of finding that next high. Whether his or her drug of choice is alcohol, cocaine or heroin, an addict can and will do anything it takes to acquire it.

We will talk in-depth about addiction, the addict, the loved ones involved, the need for both the addict and the loved ones to get into a recovery program.

We will talk about the huge impact addicts have on our legal system, as well as the philosophical changes that are happening in law enforcement and the criminal justice system to address failures of the past and outline a vision for the future.

In fact, the catalyst of this series was a meeting with U.S. Attorney David Hickton, of the Western District of Pennsylvania, which includes Indiana County. During the meeting, David said he believes we need to attack the demand side of drug usage. In the past, most law enforcement efforts were focused on fighting the supply. As the bad guys and the drugs were rounded up, there were more bad guys dealing more drugs. The efforts were not enough to win the war.

After speaking with him, I could see the need to inform our readers about this pervasive societal issue. I committed to him that the Gazette would be glad to be part of the solution. So this series was born.

In talking with community leaders, I found the subject of drug addiction to be of common concern. It’s in that spirit of unity that I extend my appreciation to our partners in this project: First Commonwealth Bank, Indiana Regional Medical Center, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Marcus & Mack, Reliant Holdings, The Reschini Group and S&T Bank

Most of us have been touched by addiction: family members, close friends, ourselves. It is a life-changing situation for all who are connected with it. Lifestyles must change for the addict and his sober support system. Behaviors have to change for all involved. Safe environments need to be created and monitored at all times. Old friendships — even childhood friendships — must be terminated, if need be, for the protection of the addict.

You will read about addicts who are successfully in recovery, “working the program,” and also about those who paid the ultimate price because of the disease. You will understand why loving parents have to ask their addicted children to leave the house to protect the family unit because the addict has not hit bottom yet.

You will see how the simplest thing can trigger a relapse, crushing an already delicately woven system of love and support. Heartbreak is common. But this is the type of effort required by all involved, providing the best chance to survive for all involved.

Our hope is that this series will help our community to understand that drug addiction really isn’t the Disease of Shame, but a chronic illness that requires public education, new approaches in law enforcement, advances in treatment and plenty of compassion to overcome.

All of us must be on the same page, working the program.



Michael Donnelly is president and publisher of Indiana Printing & Publishing, which owns The Indiana Gazette.
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