I receive a lot of emails with questions about diabetes, mostly on pump models or how to motivate teenagers to test their glucose more often. I do my best to point people to the most valuable resources around. But late last week last I got an email I felt helpless to reply to:
"I'm 28 years old my name is K. I'm type one diabetic, I've never really taken good care of myself... I rebelled (and) I started an addiction to crystal meth. I'm okay now but don't know where to begin. I've gone to doctors, but when I tell them to start slow with me so I will stick with it, they look at me like I'm retarded. Maybe anyone can give me any tips? I would really appreciate it."
I guess I am to understand that this reader has kicked her meth addiction, but is dealing with the physical and emotional aftermath — complicated of course by the struggle to get a handle on her diabetes care. What can I tell this woman to be of help? (Note: I wrote about meth addiction once before, here, but still can't claim to know the path to healing.)
I find it upsetting that the doctors this woman has seen have reacted so contemptuously. For goodness' sake, she is begging for help! This is not a time for passing judgment. And from a diabetes perspective, it should be clear that a case like this is miles away from the traditional approach of just giving the patient a bunch of handouts that list "all the right things to do."
I've said this before and I'll say it again: we understand that doctors are not wizards. They cannot make our ailments magically disappear. What we're mostly hoping for are some real-life practical tips, and some empathy, not miracles!
Any doctor worth their salt should know that the challenge for addictive personalities is to "break the cycle," to stop falling into old, compulsive habits.
Are doctors trained to have any empathy for these behavioral challenges, I wonder? Or when they hear of drug addiction, are they just falling back on human nature and passing judgment?
"How do you define methamphetamine addiction? Is it a crime, or is it an illness?" I found an article from the North Dakota Law Review about posing this question to a roomful of lawyers.
"I requested a show of hands: ninety percent of the audience defined methamphetamine use as a crime," the author writes. "The response from our legal system agrees with the audience. The penal system has increased exponentially as a consequence to the definition of methamphetamine addiction as a crime."
"Using (medical) definitions, methamphetamine clearly meets the criteria for addiction and disease. When referencing meth addiction as a disease, it meets the criteria of loss of control. If asked to apply the same logic to other well known 'diseases' such as diabetes, I doubt if the audience would define this disease as a crime. This means that the preconceived notion that addicts have control of their behavior (regardless of cognitive impairment), and have the choice to function normally, and hence should be held criminally accountable for their actions, is not necessarily true."
The comparison to diabetes here is ironic — especially in light of the fact that the author goes on to discuss how people addicted to meth find it so hard to create structure in their lives. And without "structure," creating a regimen for taking care of your diabetes is close to impossible, is it not?
"Replacing drug use with responsibilities, self care, community involvement, and work are difficult concepts for the recovering meth addict," the law author writes.
Btw, I learned about the definitive difference between drug "abuse" and "addiction" — it's a fine line, but the main differentiator is feeling truly powerless to stop yourself: "When a person goes into addiction, their choice in the matter is either severely limited or taken away entirely."
The other important point of understanding about crystal meth addiction, the experts say, is that it is as much a disease of the spirit as it is of the body and mind. "Unlike other chronic diseases, like diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, the spiritual componentof crystal meth addiction will play a major role in a person's recovery."
I'm not sure I agree completely there; I think a healthy mind/spirit component is critical to "succeeding" with diabetes, too. We all know that many PWDs slip into severe depression.
In any case, this post was meant to inquire: Does anyone out there know of any good resources specifically for diabetics struggling with meth addiction and its consequences?
Greatly appreciated, in advance.