Christina Huffington, daughter of Arianna Huffington of "The Huffington Post," recently opened up about her struggles with drug abuse. She started using cocaine when she was 16, but is now sober after seeking help at age 22.
In an interview on the "Today" show, Huffington said her struggle with cocaine addiction was "absolutely unglamorous."
"There was nothing fun about it ... I was really depressed, I was scared, I was anxious and I sorta just felt isolated and alone," she said. She described being confined to her apartment from morning till night using drugs.
This doesn't sound like the type of life and conditions anyone would want to live under. Yet people choose to abuse drugs every day, and I believe it's because a lot of them don't realize that what may have started off as a casual thing to do with friends, quickly can become an "unglamorous" and controlling addiction.
Huffington said she struggled with loneliness and emptiness and "desired to fill it with substances." Every one of us has the potential to become a substance abuser. We all have vulnerable moments, and available prescription drugs can become the easy and quick choice.
It didn't matter that Huffington was rich or had a loving family or a world of possibilities open to her. Drugs aren't prejudiced; they affect the wealthy and poor, young and old, men and women, people who are successful and those who are down on their luck, living in the city or the country.
West Virginia is especially hit hard by prescription drug abuse. Oceana's residents in Wyoming County tell in graphic detail in the documentary "Oxyana" of what it's like to live in a town where a lot of people are addicted to drugs. It's not pretty. It's heartbreaking and scary and something we shouldn't want to continue there or in other areas of our state and nation.
Prescription drug abuse in particular, is an epidemic of our country, and the fact that our state has some of the worst abuse makes it especially too close to home to ignore.
Being informed of the realties of drug abuse is a start to helping end these trends, and is something anyone can do. "Oxyana" and Huffington's story are just two resources; there are many more out there.
Plenty of West Virginians are doing something about prescription drug abuse right now through the court system and by offering a variety of drug treatment plans through the Prestera Center. Travis Crum wrote a story about the panel discussion on "Oxyana" in July, which talked about these programs.
On the federal level, Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced proposed changes in the criminal justice system that would divert low-level, nonviolent drug offenders into treatment and community service programs, and stop prosecutors from charging offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences.
With the realization that anyone can succumb to the temptations of drugs and the temporary relief they may offer, the right response is to show compassion and empathy toward those who are struggling under the weight of addiction. Let's support drug treatment programs that will get people back to living successful, happy lives, and contributing to society again. Let's stop the trend of drugs being the thing Americans turn to when we feel the pangs of "loneliness and emptiness" that come with daily life. We don't need to seek relief in a false hope that, if we let it, has the potential to take away everything dear to us, making our lives characteristic of the "unglamorous" one Huffington lived.
McComas is a copy editor for The Charleston Gazette. Contact her at emilyay...@wvgazette.com.