Growing up, my sister and I were extremely close. We are nine years apart, so I looked up to her for almost everything. She was my best friend as a child and I wanted to be just like her. Though as I got older, I realized she was not as perfect as she seemed to be. 

As a young child I always associated drug addicts and alcoholics in a negative connotation. I never understood who these kinds of people were and why they did the things they did. The only things I could think of was these people are crazy and stupid. I always questioned “Why don’t they just stop?”  But I soon realized it is much deeper than that, it is a mental disorder and for many, professional help is essential and for addicts of many years, it is nearly impossible to stop on their own.

Still naive to the lifestyle of an addict, I found these kinds of people closer and closer to me. Before, I saw these people from a distance, on the way to vacation at a gas station or walking in downtown Atlanta, but I never thought I would experience it firsthand. I heard my parents talk of family friends and friends of friends going down the drug road, but I never thought I would experience such a thing until my older sister became addicted to heroin. 

It started in 2014 and it is still a battle to this day. It was confusing at first, but more so, it was heartbreaking. Watching this lifestyle and not knowing how to help broke my heart more than anything I could ever imagine. I would do anything to help and change my sister for the better. For many years, I was filled with anger because I thought that my own sister had betrayed me. I thought she did not love me enough to give up her addiction. However, as I educated myself, I soon understood that the drugs have taken over who my sister truly was. My sister and my sister on drugs were two completely different people. Freshman year of college the addiction became worse and I did not know how to handle it or help. As she was in and out of the hospitals due to overdoses, in and out of schizophrenic episodes, and in and out of detox, it was a long and brutal process to simply admit her into the facilities she needed. The person my sister was on drugs needed serious help. 

My family and I found that it was more than difficult to admit an addict into rehab without insurance than it was impossible to admit a schizophrenic over 18 into detoxification. It was also impossible to change the mind of an addict. After multiple stages of detox and state funded rehabilitation, staying clean is not the only problem for an addict, the addict needs professional help mentally as “drug addiction is a chronic brain disease”. Simply put, the brain needs support as well. The majority of individuals suffering from drug addiction cannot and will not survive in the real world with only a seven-day detox. They need aid in understanding who they are, and that life is possible without drug use. 

Additionally, a majority of addicts do not have jobs, homes, or money to start a new life after a week of detox. In this case, rehab centers are meant to help with this situation. However, in my sister’s case, she had no insurance and was in debt, therefore she was unable to pay the average of $20,000 for the impatient rehab that she desperately needed. Years upon years she battled relapses and schizophrenic episodes because my family could not afford to keep her in rehab for more than a month. Studies show that severe addicts need a 12-month impatient program in order to successfully stay sober.

The government and states need to make entering rehabilitation centers and mental facilities simpler, cheaper, and quicker for drug addicts. Funding for drug abuse should increase as in 2018 alone, more than 70,000 people died from drug overdose. Two out of three overdoses were opioid related. Each second that goes by for an addict is one step closer to an overdose. It should not be next to impossible for an individual with no insurance to be admitted into detoxification: most addicts probably do not have insurance in the first place. My sister was lucky to have a supportive family, but most addicts do not have the support of a family, therefore giving an easy outlook to drug addicts straight out of detox is essential. 

Addicts cannot be kicked straight to the street after only seven days of being clean, they need support mentally as well as aid in getting back on their feet. 

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