I just returned from a summer family vacation to Calgary, Vancouver and Seattle.
Flying across the country from Florida to escape the heat, we saw some of the most beautiful natural sights anywhere in the world at Banff in Alberta, Stanley Park in Vancouver and Mt. Rainier in Ashford, Washington.
These visions included emerald green and Caribbean blue lakes, lush prehistoric woods, snow covered mountains, majestic pine forests emitting powerful scents of Christmas in August, and a rainbow of colorful wildflowers.
But our vacation also included some of the saddest and most disturbing sights I’ve seen in a while, particularly in the cities of Seattle and Vancouver.
Individuals on streets, parks and store entryways smoking cannabis, and openly free-basing and shooting up drugs.
Homeless people living in squalor in tents on city sidewalks and people walking around on the streets in a mental state akin to zombies.
Shirtless men more than once came face to face with me with void less eyes and the only word they could utter to me was “food.”
The powerful smell of skunk weed left me nauseous as it was constant and everywhere. On the streets, in cafes, in hotels, and in public transportation.
What occurred to me was that in some of the most prominent, wealthy and diverse cities in the world, we continue to have significant numbers of individuals’ lost to addiction and substance abuse, as well as mental health problems and homelessness.
Some of the most successful, creative and innovative minds live in these cities and yet we have a significant portion of our population suffering from addiction and substance abuse and the negative rippling effects of these problems on families, communities and economies.
Obviously, there is no simple or singular solution to the problem of addiction and substance abuse in the US, Canada and across the globe.
But we need more creative and bold ideas for solutions to these parasitic and enduring problems, including more, different and better policy, treatment, prevention and education to control access and use of addictive substances.
While I came back from vacation refreshed and renewed from what I saw in nature, I’m also more committed than ever to do what we can at Prevention Plus Wellness to prevent substance abuse and promote the mental and physical wellbeing of young people after what I experienced in our cities.