Imagine this: Imagine that you woke up one day and found that your life had changed.

Imagine, after years of being a good responsible person and a good family member, that your behavior suddenly changed in ways you could never imagine.  

You have begun to deceive others, to lie, to cheat and even to steal. Despite your belief that you are a thoughtful and loving person, you now continually hurt those who you most love. You are on the verge of losing your job, your home and your reputation in the community. Your life is now a nightmare from which you cannot wake and you cannot stop.

It is as if someone or something has hijacked your brain.  You are now driven to behave badly and selfishly.

Your attempts to find someone to help you are also rejected. When people see you approach, they instinctually shun you. You feel shame and humiliation. You feel that no one even cares to help you.

Imagine that this would continue for the rest of your life.

For a great many people who live in our community, this is a reality. For our neighbors, friends and family who have been affected by drug addiction, an unfortunate set of circumstances changed their behavior after they became dependent on substances in any of a number of different ways.

Some people affected became addicted after treatment for an injury or after a surgery. For others, emotional traumas increased their susceptibility to the temporary balm of drugs. Regardless of how the addiction started, their brains were soon hijacked in awful ways.

Sadly, the general population has very little understanding of drug addiction. Common misperceptions are that drug addicts are weak-willed and irresponsible people. It is not so simple. Many people are susceptible. Due to living in communities with such high rates of addiction, starting at very young ages, escaping its effects is very difficult. 

Another misperception is that people with drug addiction are “rotten to the core,” and are better put in jail, not deserving of compassion, sympathy or meaningful support. Also, many believe that treatment does not work or that methadone clinics are all that is available. However, treatment does work and there are many paths to sobriety. Unfortunately, access to treatment is very poor in Knox County, a problem that is desperately seeking solutions.

Unchecked, Knox County is on a dangerous course. 

While exact statistics are unknown, the best assessments of addiction in Knox County suggest that more than one out of 10 teenagers and young adults (15 to 25 years old) are addicted to opiate drugs. Data from 2014 confirmed 29.2% of babies born in Knox County were exposed to drugs during their pregnancy. In Maine, the death rate due to drug overdoses increased by 31% in the last year. If not addressed soon, Knox County is facing a disaster unseen in our lifetimes. Without aggressive action, much of our youngest generation now face lifelong problems that will undermine their ability to live a normal life. It will affect the health of our entire community in many direct and indirect ways.

This problem is so great that it will take involvement of every person in Knox County to slow the rate of newly addicted people and to reverse the rates. It will require every organization and practice in the county to join together to help those directly and indirectly affected. That means that your participation, at whatever level you can help, is needed.

At the very least, all of us need to become better educated about the causes, effects and treatment of drug addiction so that we can support better approaches to improve the situation.

Beyond that, Knox County needs people willing to roll up their sleeves, get involved and offer financial*, emotional, spiritual and hands-on support. 

Please visit the web page for the Knox County Recovery Coalition, dedicated to prevention, treatment and support for people directly and indirectly affected by drug addiction:  Please sign up as a “member” and stay attuned to opportunities to learn more and to help. We are a great community. We can and we need to make our community stronger than any drug.