After treating many patients with opioid use disorder, I observed that people are using the drugs to feel good about themselves and receive a much-needed, warm hug. The drug quickly becomes one's best friend, until, eventually, all other relationships in the person's life have crumbled. A patient stuck in addiction feels the loneliness of his or her predicament every hour of every day and because of this turns again and again back to the drug — which serves as the consistent source of comfort.
Warm hugs can help prevent someone from turning to drugs for comfort. The catch is, they have to begin early in life. And the most frequent place that can happen is in the home.
There are community resources for those struggling with addiction. I have visited many of them, from inpatient units to residential facilities and intensive outpatient programs. They are all great. But none of the groups, therapists, medications, meditations or yoga sessions can do for someone's self-esteem and confidence what warm hugs can do in the home. We need to support patients in getting back into their homes — or creating homes — where warm hugs can be freely given and received.
As we focus on fighting addiction in our communities, let's remember that the most effective prevention is a hug in the home, and the most effective treatment is returning home for a long-overdue hug. And yes, for some, hugs may not have been enough to prevent a drug addiction, but they are the best prevention we have, in my opinion.
Salt Lake City