Like many other families—perhaps most—I have experienced excruciating heartbreak from losing family members because of mental illness and addiction issues. Pain from such losses never ends.
Recent data shows that U.S. deaths from suicide, alcohol and opioids totaled more than 156,000 in a one-year period. Numbers have risen for a variety of reasons—Covid, access to fentanyl, border security issues, and more.
Some users and abusers have been saved thanks to rehabilitation, counseling, therapies, and support groups. Hunter Biden is one of the lucky ones. Read his book Beautiful Things: A Memoir to learn how serious his addiction was and how arduous his road to recovery. That is why I find jokes and wisecracks about Hunter Biden’s addiction unconscionable, heartless, and just plain wrong.
Should Hunter Biden pay taxes he owes to the federal government? Absolutely. (And he has.) Should Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine and China be analyzed and must he be brought to task for any wrongdoings? Absolutely. And trust me, no stone is being left unturned.
But is it wrong to mock Hunter Biden for his former drug use? To make jokes about the cocaine packet found in the White House? Is it wrong to suggest that President Biden should hide his troubled son from public view? I say a resounding yes.
As a nation, we must celebrate those who have conquered their demons and come out victorious on the other side. We should encourage their continued sobriety and do whatever is in our power to promote a continued and sustained recovery. Many of us reading this article know loved ones who have reached a recovery status only to stumble and fall back into the abyss of alcohol or opioid addiction or acute depression. Remember the struggles of Heath Ledger, Kurt Cobain, Whitney Huston, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and River Phoenix to name only a few.
It is a tenuous and arduous task to sustain sobriety. Constant ridicule and mocking insults are not helpful. They harm and they hurt.
Joe Biden has been a good father to his son. He has supported him and stood by him in times of trouble. He applauds his son’s sobriety as he should. And he understands that addiction is a disease—not evidence of lack of character.
The State of Maryland is not immune to the trauma of substance abuse. In 2021, Maryland recorded 2,460 opioid overdose deaths. Such drug induced deaths in Maryland exceed the national average. One study reported that more than eight percent of Marylanders reported using illicit drugs in the past month.
So instead of criticizing the shortcomings of those who suffer from these maladies, what steps should we as a nation take to reduce the preponderance of such dreadful statistics? Here are just a few suggestions from various mental health organizations.
Expand access to substance use prevention programs and mental health programs in schools.
Increase access to mental health and substance use healthcare through full enforcement of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act.
Reduce availability of illicit opioids.
Limit access to lethal means of suicide.
Expand efforts to combat stigmas about mental health issues.
Expand the mental health and substance use treatment workforce.
Build community capacity for early identification and intervention with individuals who require mental healthcare.
And finally, and most importantly, show compassion, kindness, and support for those who travel that difficult road to recovery. Dusty Springfield said it best: Let’s “put a little love in our hearts.”
Maria Grant was principal-in-charge of a federal human capital practice at an international consulting firm. While on the Eastern Shore, she focuses on writing, music, reading, gardening, and nature.