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Sports Editor Alexa Shrake writes the column "Up on the Hill" to discuss issues in government and politics.

My brother was always someone I looked up to.

He was the one I could call if I didn’t feel safe. He was the person I’d go to when I needed to laugh.

In high school, I began to notice something different about him, but my mom just brushed it off. One day, while in my health class, a girl told me she had been spending time with him.

He offered her meth.

At that moment, I couldn’t foresee the battle my brother would fight for years.

The Division of Mental Health and Addiction, or DMHA, is a state agency that sets standards for how mental health and addiction services are provided to those suffering in Indiana.

Addiction is frequently related to mental health issues. People who choose to begin using drugs do so because they want the pain they are feeling to end, not because they want to die.

Many negative stigmas surround substance abuse. Many see those who are in prison as drug-users. And while it is common for those who are poor to use drugs, they are not the only ones. People in all class levels use drugs as a way to escape their everyday lives.

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders fifth edition classifies substance abuse as an illness. It involves brain chemistry and physical effects on the body, just like other diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the CDC, labeled substance abuse as one of the nation’s top health issues.

It remains an issue in Indiana, too.

Vice President Mike Pence initiated the needle exchange program when he was governor of Indiana.

This program originated in Scott County, Indiana, where an outbreak of HIV developed from people sharing needles. The program allowed drug users to exchange their used needles for clean ones. It gave them a cleaner way to use while encouraging them to stop.

The needle exchange program is still in effect but faced much scrutiny when it first began.

Some people argued that the program allowed people to continue using drugs. But it ultimately reduced the spread of HIV in Scott County.

President-elect Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, overcame addiction, too. It became a point of discussion during the last presidential debate, where Biden said he was proud of his son for getting help.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for most who face addiction.

The Biden administration plans on making sure Americans have access to quality healthcare that covers substance abuse treatment and mental health services.

Tara Treatment Center just outside of Franklin is a refuge for people looking to overcome their addiction.

They treat their patients with a holistic approach focusing on the mind, body, and spirit. Their most intensive level of care is detoxification and the least intensive treatment is outpatient.

In-patient care is when a patient stays in a facility and has zero access to anyone outside the facility. The success rate for this type of treatment is much higher and recommended for serious addictions.

The detoxification process, which is inpatient, can take days or months depending on how long one has been using and how much. Next in the process is stabilization, which involves medication to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Doctors then connect with a patient and explain what is about to happen to get the toxic substance out of their body.

Common side effects of detoxification include nervousness or anxiety,

insomnia, nausea, body discomfort, and more.

The worst and scariest part of this process, though, is watching a loved one go through withdrawal and knowing there is nothing you can do.

Many people spew hatred on those facing substance abuse, saying they chose that way of life. One may choose to take a drug for the first time, but one does not choose to become an addict. Addiction is one of the hardest obstacles to overcome.

To overcome addiction one must change their daily routines. Many lose their jobs and struggle to find a new one. They often burn bridges with loved ones during their healing process.

My brother is still fighting. Now and then I see the old him: The person who loved to watch Adam Sandler movies and play basketball games with me. While I hope one day he will choose to complete rehab and stay clean, that is his decision to make when he is ready.

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