Addiction causes a lot of collateral damage in a family, and Laura Kiesel, a contributor to the Harvard Medical School blog, has spoken out about how it has affected her and her family. “As the daughter of a longtime drug addict, the current burgeoning opioid epidemic managed to be bother familiar and strange to me at the same time,” she writes. 

Kiesel continues that her mother’s addictions took hold “during the height of the drug epidemics that occurred in New York City in the mid-1980s. Back then, addiction was treated and viewed more as a crime than a disease,” and “the intense societal shaming and criminalization of her addictions led to more resistance by my mother to seek the treatment she needed, until she eventually stopped trying altogether.”

Kiesel had to suffer terrible abuse at her mother’s hands, and she had “no healthy outlet to vent my escalating outrage at my own victimization, at an age when I was too young to properly process or even understand what was happening. ” Kiesel’s mother didn’t seek help, and Kiesel herself “learned to be silent, to repress my feelings, and to isolate myself, so as not to mistakenly disclose our family secret and be swept away into the foster care system.”

Kiesel sees it’s clearly a different world today where addiction is indeed treated like a disease, and there are many outlets for support, but she’s also upset that her family fell through the cracks because they were poor. “I hope the medical field will work to adopt nuanced and individualized approaches to treating both pain and addiction that do not cater to one demographic at the expense of the other.”

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