April 3, 2023

Some people use substances casually. That can make it harder to recognize addiction


Roman Griffin Jr. lives in Merrillville, Indiana. He says some substances are more normalized than others, which makes it harder for individuals to identify when use becomes problematic.  - Submitted photo

Roman Griffin Jr. lives in Merrillville, Indiana. He says some substances are more normalized than others, which makes it harder for individuals to identify when use becomes problematic.

Submitted photo

Some substances — like alcohol or cannabis —  are more normalized and don’t hold the same stigma as others. And many use these substances casually, which can make it difficult to identify when substance use has become problematic.

Roman Griffin Jr. is a 24-year-old personal trainer from Merrillville, in Northwest Indiana. Griffin spoke to WFYI health reporter Darian Benson as part of WFYI’s Voices of Recovery and Hope series. Click here to listen to the full series.

This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for length and clarity.

I grew up in Gary, Indiana. Substance use is very prevalent in my community. I say we are dealing with a global, national issue. You know, in the Black community, the things that I experienced as a young man in the inner city can be said for all of our major Black cities in America.

Omar Jr. was my cousin. We grew up together. Recently, he passed of a drug overdose. It really shook me to find out that that was, you know, what he went out to. It messed me up because I know of other men in my family who are still struggling with drug use, substance use.

I myself have dealt with both alcoholism and marijuana use, particularly in college. And I can say, it started out socially and as my mood or as life happens and things don't go my way, once I'm depressed, doing these things, it goes from a social habit to a dependency thing. I think that's how quickly it turned from substance use to what I would say was addiction — feeling like I needed substances to cope.

I knew that I had to take control of my mind, of my emotions, and to really get in line with the person I aspire to be. I can only be the highest version of myself when I elevate my mentality.  And to not be in control of yourself is the definition of a slave. My purpose in life is to heal myself, to heal my family, to teach and liberate myself and the community.

I think that marijuana and alcohol use are far more socially acceptable. We know how alcohol is promoted to the masses.

One of the worst things we do in the Black community is compare addictions or compare vices, as in, “I only smoke weed, at least I’m not smoking cigarettes.” We hear that all the time. Or, “At least I don’t smoke crack.” But I feel that we have to take a step back and realize that addiction is addiction.

I say that no man is above or below me. And it’s a problem to belittle someone based on their vice.

Whether you identify as an addict or not, whether your particular substance is legal or if it’s not, the goal for all of us should be to improve our holistic health and our quality of life.

Contact WFYI health reporter Darian Benson at dbenson@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @helloimdarian.

This series was created in response to community feedback around substance use issues collected by Side Effects Public Media’s Brittani Howell. You can read more about her substance use-related community engagement work here.

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