Written By: Corine Gatti-Santillo

I’ve been in mourning for decades — not over physical death, although it’s comparable.

Addiction is the culprit. Heroin is to blame. Call it H, hell dust or smack, the opioid robbed a family member of their existence. Once they used the drug in their 20’s — my loved one never returned to us the same person. Over the years the battle for the family ensued, including money for bail, stealing, lying, exposing us to nefarious characters and once a drug search. The constant financial bailouts — trickery to get money for their next high destroys those around them.

Drug addiction not only kills the user slowly but the family as well. It’s a thief of dreams. We witnessed it draining the life out of my parents — until it finally did.

We still don’t know where our loved one is — we can only pray. Addiction is a demon that traps any person, regardless if they’re a Christian. They can be an executive, a housewife, rich or poor.

Addiction doesn’t discriminate. We can observe this in the latest statistics.

Nearly 494,000 people in the United States in 2017 used heroin. Children as young as 12-years-old (or older) reported using heroin in the past year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported. In 2015, approximately “81,326 emergency department visits occurred for unintentional, heroin-related poisonings in America, which is an estimated rate of almost 26 per 100,000 people.”

The stats of heroin coming into the U.S. are staggering. The Drug Enforcement Administration intercepted 16,000 kilograms of heroin since 2017. President Donald J. Trump declared war against opioids when he took office. The Administration launched numerous programs that range from health initiatives led by the Department of Health and Human Services to expand law enforcement through the Department of Justice.

“We will defeat this crisis, we will protect our beautiful children, and we will ensure that tomorrow is better, brighter, stronger, and greater than ever before,” said Trump who launched the Initiative to Stop Opioid Abuse and Reduce Drug Supply and Demand.

The President declared the opioid crises a national public health emergency. His Administration has a tough job and so do people trying to help those affected by addiction. Despite the money piped into the system to prevent drug abuse — the cards are stacked against us.

The chemical in heroin alters the brain by creating long-term irregularities in the hormonal systems. Usage decreases how much dopamine and serotonin are released due to the drug. Continuous changes in the brain diminish the possibilities of rehabilitation. The brain is essentially hijacked making recovery slim.

The American dream used to be having a career, family, buying a house and having a vacation yearly.

Now, it’s overcoming addiction. Of course, this is not limited to illegal drugs. High-risk drinking, prescription medications, smoking all can crush a person.

Addiction is a thief of time, relationships, dreams and resources. Not only is it an individual problem — it’s an American issue.

The country spends more money on heart disease, cancer treatment, and other physical health problems. Addiction is not considered a disease — but America was wrong.

It’s a disease.

In 2016, 63,600 people died of a drug overdose. “That’s an increase of 21 percent from the prior year and nearly double the 34,425 drug overdose deaths that occurred a decade earlier,” a 2018 Pew Study found.

The numbers for opioid addiction are astonishingly frightening. When the story becomes personal — it not only impacts one person or one family. This fight impacts our nation.

I might always grieve over my family member. It’s a personal fight that’s exhausting. Giving it to God keeps the light of hope on for him and others losing someone to opioids or to any addiction.