Unfortunately, our officers often are exposed to extremely depressing scenes and situations. There aren’t many tragedies more horrifying than an accident that claims a life, especially a child. Although there are preventive measures that can help, most are just accidents, with no harm intended. Then there are scenes where a victim has been brutally attacked by an assailant without regard.
Another tragedy our officers see much too frequently is drug addiction (substance abuse disorder). Although the initial act of ingesting might be a poor choice, it easily can morph into an addiction that ultimately can take a life, leaving a horrific trail of pain, mental health illness and loss of employment, family and friends. An addiction affects more than just the addict’s inner circle. It also can create a huge drain on our community in terms of health consequences, government (tax) resources and expenses, unemployment and homelessness.
Over the years, our society has had a tendency to misdiagnose those with addictions and to believe they chose their lifestyle. Mayo Clinic defines a substance abuse disorder as “a disease that affects a person’s brain and behavior and leads to an inability to control the use of a legal or illegal drug or medicine. Substances such as alcohol, marijuana and nicotine also are considered drugs.” Physical addiction appears to occur when repeated use of a drug changes the way your brain “feels pleasure,” the clinic says, by causing “physical changes to some neurons’ use of neurotransmitters to communicate.”
Our medical and public safety officials have been seeing more and more overdose incidents. The increased use of opioid drugs has led to fentanyl turning up in other, more common drugs. What’s even more disturbing is the need to get high now is leading some down a path of choosing fentanyl. Precious lives and families are being destroyed daily. As a society, we have to do a much better job of recognizing the tragedies in our family, friends, neighbors, classmates and co-workers. Beyond the health, financial and social impacts, addictions are leading to domestic and international crimes, abuse and terrorism.
If you suffer from this disorder, I beg you to seek help. If family members or friends suffer from it, beg them to get help. We can’t afford any more preventable loss of life. Recognize risk factors: family history, mental health disorders, peer pressure, lack of family involvement, early use, ingesting highly addictive drugs. Help is just a phone call away. In Georgia, contact the Georgia Crisis and Access Line 24/7 at 800-715-4225. It might be the call that saves your life or the lives of others!
Until next time, stay safe.
– Bill Westenberger has served as chief since 2008. He was given the 2019 Kennesaw Citizen of the Year Award.