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Nick Rohlen, first year writing UNC Asheville student


Within the Burton Street Community Peace Gardens sits a building, inside the building there are empty pill bottles on the counter top with a poem. This art installation resembles drug addiction. The Burton street community use to be littered with drugs, it uses to be one of the most dangerous places in Asheville. DeWayne runs tours, telling the history of the community and when I took a tour with him around the community he said “This street use to have drugs all over, mostly crack cocaine. If it was like it used to be, we wouldn’t be able to be here, I’d be to dangerous.” The poem is to tell of the street’s history with illegal drugs. However, it also tells the story of those addicted to legal drugs, prescription drugs. Drug addiction can be from any type of drug, it doesn’t matter if its legal or not. That is why this piece of art spoke to me. I have many people in my life who have been affected by drug addiction whether it’s prescription pills, hard drugs, or alcohol. It can take many different forms but its all the same disease. Over time the drug will affect the brain so much that you will develop a need for the drug, your body will rely on the drug, and if you don’t seek help, you will die from the drug. Drug addiction can destroy your life, it will make you loose people you care about, and it will turn all your relationships into smoke.

How drug addiction destroys relationships

Addiction can destroy lives. It can make loved ones see you in a new light, and it is a very upsetting thing. It can make children have lasting psychological effects from watching their parents do that to themselves, not to mention if they get out of control and hit the children or their spouse. It could also put you into a depression, if you know what you’re doing to yourself is bad, but you can’t stop, you could really fall into a dark place. In my interview with Nancy, she said “A wife unable to have a life for fear if she leaves him alone, he may be dead when she comes home. Kids who don’t understand end up with psychological damage.” She had to live her entire childhood with the troubles of an addicted father. She goes on to say “You can’t have friends because they don’t want to be around ‘that’ family. Guests stare in horror when they see that you know how to mix drinks at the age of 5.” The effects left on a child can be very harmful and lead to a disconnected future relationship.

Drug addiction can make people homeless, you spend all your money getting more to feed your addiction and end up with no money left for a home or rent. A former heroine addicted talked about loosing everything in a ted talk “To be homeless in America, you’ve had to have burned you’re bridges. You made promises that you meant and then broke them multiple times. Your job has turned you away, your friends have turned you away, and your family has turned you away.” (Raj Mehta: Addiction 101) When a person has burned all their bridges and are left all alone in the streets with nobody to turn to, they will turn back to drugs to ese the pain, to make the depression go away. However, that just causes more and more depression. He goes on to say, “Drug addiction can turn good men into bank robbers, and good women into prostitutes.” (Raj Mehta: Addiction 101) People will resort to anything to get their hands on what it is they are addicted to.

How addiction make you a different person

Addiction has affected my life, with one of my cousins being an alcoholic before he even graduated high school, he was sent to military school when my uncle found him with weed. His older sister became an alcoholic, it tends to run in my family. They are both at least 2 years sober now so things with them have gotten better. In this study, researchers look at how abuse and the neglecting of children can send them into addictive behaviors “California completed a survey about childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction; illicit drug use; and other health-related issues.” (Dube, Shanta R, child abuse and neglect) At the time their parents got divorced and their Dad remarried. Unfortunately, there step-mom neglected them a bit and that is what our family thinks sent them into addiction. However, alcoholism runs in my family with both of my grandfather’s being alcoholics. My mother had fallen into a depression and got addicted to pills with a handful of prescription pills every day. I am fearful of falling into their path.

I interviewed a friend of mine about her experiences with drug addiction, she had had multiple family members affected by drug addiction.  she said “He would come to us for money, he was family, so we wanted to help him, but not to support his addiction. Eventually we stopped talking to him because my parents didn’t want that influence around us. You kind of forget about them until one day you get a call that they had died from an overdose.” Family is the most important people in someone’s life and when you lose them, that can tear someone up. It can give you the strength to find help or it can through you into a depression where your only help is more drugs, eventually you overdose all alone. It’s a terrifying thing to think about but it happens, nobody wants to die alone, but nobody wants to watch a person they love slowly deteriorate from their own choices.

A man I had met to interview had a past relationship where his partner was addicted to heroin, he said “When I found out I was shocked, I told her she needed to stop doing this before she does too much damage to herself. It took a while, but she finally got clean, or at least I thought. She relapsed a few months later without me knowing at first, but it didn’t take long for me to find out. I loved her but the night I had to spend with her holding her hair as she vomited everything out of her really changed how I looked at her. It’s hard to watch someone you love to do that to themselves. It was really difficult for me because we were still in high school, she was ruining her life before it even started.”

Addicts are more prone to violent behaviors do to their need for the drug or the impairment that is caused by the drug making them unable to rationalize. A study shows what groups are more prone to violent acts when having addictions, “Patients with violence problems were younger than those without violence problems and were more likely to report having been a victim of abuse.” (Fernandez-Montalvo, Javier, Journal of interpersonal Violence) The drug will mess with their brain in such a way that they will become dependent on the drug and they will try to get it in no matter what.

Public Relations

There are a lot of things that come to mind when you imagine a stereotypical drug addict. They are homeless or very poor, due to them spending all their money on drugs. They don’t look to clean, and they don’t have good hygiene. Sometimes these images can be true and sometimes it’s not. However, that’s how people will see a drug addict in their minds, even though they look perfectly fine. People have an existing mental image of what addicts look like and they associate it with everyone that falls under the disease.

The public may feel bad for them, but some see them as bad for the community, as in driving property value down. There are the opinions that addicts will create the demand that will then influence the growth in drugs within the community and with drugs comes crime and potentially violence.

That is where the cops will see drug addicts, as criminals. Sure, most of them are doing something illegal (using an illegal substance), but law enforcement also doesn’t want more drugs to come into the community. Their job is to keep people safe, so they want to minimize the risk of violence, wich can come with drugs. So, law enforcement doesn’t like to see drug addicts, not just because of what they have done to themselves, but also what they could bring or what is already there, and they are fueling the crime.

The addicts that end up homeless, scrapping and begging for money to get more drugs, also create negative images for those that are homeless for other reasons such as not being able to get a job. People that are fortunate enough to be able to give money to help the homeless are usually hesitant to give them money due to not being able to tell if they are going to buy food or drugs. Just like loved ones, nobody wants to support the addiction, which could make them withdrawn from giving some money to support those that are just trying to eat.

Where to get help

It's very important that people know where to find help for their addictions, and to know that loved ones are there to support them. They need people to help them get through this, but they also need people they are doing this for. If you know someone with an addiction you need to make them understand how bad it is and that you are there to help them through it. Find somewhere that will give them asylum from bad influences such as rehab centers.

You don’t have to support their addiction to support them. Just be there for them and let them know that they have someone to turn to, but you want to get them off the drug. Don’t cut them off, because one day your going to get a call telling you that they overdosed. Try to help them as much as you can.

You can seek help at your local rehab center or small recovery groups. Those that are local to Asheville can go to local centers such as: “Asheville Recovery Center” located at 9 old Burnsville hill Rd Suit 7 (828) 398-0181, or “Crest View Recovery Center” located at 90 Asheland Ave (866) 327-2505.


Violent Behaviors in Drug Addiction: Differential Profiles of Drug-Addicted Patients With and Without Violence Problems

Fernández-Montalvo, JavierLópez-Goñi, José JArteaga, Alfonso.Journal of Interpersonal Violence; Thousand Oaks Vol. 27, Iss. 1, 

TEDx talks, 2015,April,6. Addiction 101 | Raj Mehta | TEDxUofM,

Childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction and the risk of illicit drug use: The Adverse childhood experiences study

Dube, Shanta RFelitti, Vincent JMaxia DongChapman, Daniel Pet al.Pediatrics; Evanston Vol. 111, Iss. 3,

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