Tagwa Shammet, Opinions Editor
It’s something that floods the media networks; something that seems so far yet is so close. As we grow older, it starts happening right in front of our eyes: addiction.
One in seven Americans, averaging 40 million people, suffers from addiction every year. Addiction is stigmatized to be a choice, something that can be easily avoided and healed. However, as time progresses, people are learning that addiction is a disease that can lead to deadly consequences if left untreated.
Drug overdose is the leading cause of death for Americans under the age of 50. College students are so overly exposed to alcohol and drugs on campuses that it doesn’t shock me to hear they are at risk of abusing drugs. I’m sure we’ve all read the Stall Street Journal and all the facts provided by The Well — nevertheless, many of us don’t take that seriously. As students, we have this false sense of untouchability, which is why we find ourselves saying: “Well, that won’t happen to me.”
The thing is, it can happen to you.
According to the Center of Addiction, nearly 3.8 million American college students find themselves abusing some form of alcohol or drug. Listen, I’m the first person to advocate for self-restraint, but I understand the situations we are all in. Between classwork stress, jobs and peer pressure, saying “no” feels impossible.
It’s time to stop ridiculing people for having an addiction and start helping them recover from their illness. I get it; if it were up to me, students would never have been exposed to these substances, let alone given the opportunity to abuse them. Yet, the reality is people are becoming addicted to substances all around us. Running away from them and choosing to blame the victims of this disease can only cause harm.
I’m the last person to compliment VCU. However, today I’ll give credit where it is due. VCU’s Rams in Recovery is a Student Affairs program that helps students receive treatment for their addictions while staying on track with their education. This program is a prime example of how to handle addiction on college campuses.
It’s easy for us to overlook the struggles of students with addictions when we’re not the ones affected. But just imagine all of your daily dilemmas with the added challenge of having a severe need to put a substance in your body. Rams in Recovery understands that just because you’re suffering from this disease doesn’t mean your need for education has suddenly disappeared. While these students have been momentarily impaired, they still plan to continue with their degree plans.
I’m not the only one noticing the greatness Rams in Recovery is doing. As announced on Oct. 31, the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is allocating more of its funds to the VCU program due to the extensive opioid crisis. Not only that, but many Virginia schools such as Old Dominion University, University of Virginia and even our neighbors at Virginia Union University have begun to receive assistance from Rams in Recovery. These schools can see the excellent compassion and concern Rams in Recovery has for its students and will be modeling portions of their programs around ours.
Our culture has conditioned us to blame victims of addiction for their disease. It has told us that those suffering had a choice when in reality they are just dealing with the consequences of their circumstances. At the end of the day, people have to deal with their addictions, regardless of whether we get involved. I refuse to idly stand by while they fight to recover. More importantly, I reject the concept of forcing other humans to their caskets rather than giving them the love and support they need to survive.