Here's what you said about heroin as a disease

Posted at 4:41 PM, Feb 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-13 09:38:22-05

Our editorial, “Heroin is a disease, not a choice,” spurred a vigorous, serious and passionate discussion on WCPO’s Facebook page.

It’s clear that the heroin crisis in this community has touched many, troubled many, and perplexed all of us.


Opinions are strong on both sides of the disease vs. choice issue. Many agree that heroin addiction should be treated like a disease and just as many (perhaps more) argue that addicts made a fateful choice and shouldn’t be compared to people who suffer from heart disease or diabetes.

Here’s some of your comments. You can “like” the WCPO Facebook page and join in the debate.

Chasity Cecil It's a choice not a disease! Wish people had the choice to say no to heart disease, diabetes, or asthma, but they don't. People who pick up that needle had a choice, which makes it totally different.

Chasity’s post sparked 150 replies, 290 “thumbs up” signs and kicked off a true online debate.

This post from Mike Kendrick was typical of the other side.

Mike Kendrick Addiction is a disease. Many cases of heart disease, diabetes, cancers are caused by our lifestyle choices. We don't hear people saying lung cancer patients choose to get lung cancer. We don't hear people saying the obese choose to get heart disease. The double standard when it comes to addiction has to stop.

There were many impassioned opinions about the crisis:

Wayne Cannon Addiction is a disease. It consumes every waking hour of their existence. An addict would choose their drug over anything. No exceptions. No person in their right mind would chose this lifestyle.

Chris Fabian Definitely disagree! Cancer is a disease, Alzheimer's is a disease, MS is a disease. Heroin addiction is a choice and an excuse. No sympathy for people who continually choose to do drugs.

'Take a Walk In My Shoes'

Some said their attitudes had changed because of their own experiences or from seeing a family member suffer through heroin addiction.

April Michelle Edenfield Experience it for yourself and then tell me it's a may have been a choice the first time I picked up, but eventually I had no choice and addiction took hold. I'm an addict in recovery over 4 years. Take a walk in my shoes before you judge.

Toni Beasley With any big issues in life, your views change when your child, at any age, suffers from any sort of substance abuse. I do pray it doesn't happen to you.

Michelle Weadbrock Addiction may not be called a disease but there are people who are born more prone to addiction. My brother is an addict (opiates are the worst of his addictions) but looking back, even as a kid, he seemed to become obsessive with things. It was his choice to start smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, etc. but something in him makes him addicted to things....I have no doubt addiction should be treated as a disease.

Pam Dieterich My daughter is a heroin addict ... It was a choice when she decided that very FIRST time ... However I believe now it's a disease and her demon heroin has taken over. But it's her choice how she chooses to treat her disease ... to fight her demon ... and she chooses not to ... of course there are always million excuses why she doesn't ... I wish she would treat her disease but she doesn't. It took me a long time to get where I am with her disease, but if you ignore a disease it doesn't get better!

Mike Toth Jr. I'm an addict. 12 years ago I stupidly CHOSE to start experimenting with almost everything. I had something almost every day for 10 years, but i CHOSE never to touch heroin for many reasons. Addiction is many things but it’s not a disease. Two years ago I CHOSE to get clean. Now life is truly great!

Shonda Swoger Cornell Quit giving these people a crutch! It's a choice! And you can't compare it to heart disease or diabetes because some people are born with both of those! Yes I have dealt with addiction in my family and friends. I have also lost a couple. The excuses for them have to stop!

'Little Hope for Their Future'

Some of you recognized the role that physicians and the drug industry have played in over-prescribing powerful pain medication:

Linda Kelly Nichols … SOMETIMES... the addiction didn't start at a party or back alley bad choice. SOMETIMES... it starts with prescription pain management meds that a health care professional prescribed for an illness. I know of people that went in for back surgeries, oral surgeries, etc. and came out with a Rx Opiate and it unlocks the brain. It's an epidemic and it starts with the health care industry!

Leila Rodriguez recognized not only the medical community’s role, but the more complicated reasons of opiate addiction that have to do with joblessness and hopelessness:

Leila Rodríguez It IS disease … The problem has to be treated at the root though: this problem hits those who start abusing pain medication (mostly middle and upper class) and youth who have little hope for their future because they grow up in economically depressed towns with few educational and job opportunities. Both causes need to be addressed. …

'Find a Way to Save Lives'

We’ll give Pamela Berry-Holcomb the final word here.  She wants to see less judging and more compassion. That will lead to better information about the problem and, she hopes, to positive solutions.

Pamela Berry-Holcomb It's so much easier to see a person who uses heroin as a low-life, good-for-nothing drug addict. … Those of us who would never use heroin cannot understand why someone would ever use it even once, knowing the consequences. We need to stop judging and start learning more about this problem and find a way to save some lives, even the lives of the people who for whatever reason use heroin.