Drug addiction is not a character flaw

Matthew Rietveld / The Watchdog

There is no question of the existence of the opioid epidemic in America, but a Facebook video that has recently gone viral raised questions about the amount of personal information that is appropriate to share publicly in order to convey a message.

Brendan Clark, a father from Ohio, posted a recording of him telling his eight-year-old son that his mother had died the previous night from a drug overdose. In the description of the video, Clark stated that he shared this personal moment to raise awareness to the devastation that opioid addiction brings. Although this issue is relevant and deserves attention from the public, I think that the video was sharing too much information with the public at the child’s expense.

Given that the video was posted on Clark’s personal profile, the video was exposed to all the members of his immediate community before the general public. His son’s face is clearly displayed in the video, so he can be identified by any person that has previously met him. This is a breach of the boy’s privacy, as he was likely questioned repeatedly by his peers and other people in his community during a time of immense grief.

Since Clark’s son did not know what news he was about to receive, he could not have consented to being filmed during such an emotional moment. On top of that, the family was not in a private setting, but an outdoor picnic table with multiple bystanders listening in on the conversation. It was clear that not every person visible in the video was a family member, so I question why Clark chose to tell his son the news so publicly. Even if he was trying to make a statement for a good cause, he still did so at the expense of his child’s privacy and emotional well-being.

No child should ever have to hear such horrible news. In the case that they do, they deserve to have privacy and respect in such a sensitive time. After realizing what had happened, the son broke down into tears and continued to be filmed for minutes afterwards. This reaction could only be expected of an eight-year-old boy who just received news of his mother’s death. At the very least, the cameraman should not have made a performance out of the young boy’s emotions and stopped the video out of respect.

Despite the fact that it may have negative repercussions on Clark’s son, there is no doubt that the video achieved its intended impact. Multiple news organizations have published articles about the video since it has gone viral, displaying the video and the purpose that it was given by Clark. It is clear that it has tugged on the heartstrings of many people, and it most certainly has for me.
There is a common belief that opioid addiction only exists in the dirty alleyways of cities and that no addicts are capable of maintaining relationships. This video proves that to not be the case. Clark is gentle and loving with his son, and it is clear that the mother was loved and cherished by her family. This is a side of drug addiction that is not often shown in mainstream media. People who suffer from addiction are loved just as any other family member, and the loss of their life is devastating to many people around them.

I think that it is important for people to start to view addiction as a disease instead of a character flaw. People who fall victim to opioid addiction are not individuals who are inherently flawed, but rather caught under tragic circumstances that are out of their control. Once a person becomes addicted, they cannot simply stop by using willpower, it takes a healthcare professional to wean the body off the addictive substances. Addiction is not simply a bad habit that can be attributed to a lack of self-control, it is a real medical condition that can be deadly. In order to decrease the impact on innocent families such as the Clarks, the public must stop making judgements of a person’s character based on addiction and focus on helping those in need.