“We are at a historical crossroads. We can continue playing the blame game, piling up unimaginable health and economic costs. Or, we can parlay the transformative power of scientific discovery into a bright future for addicted individuals, for their families and for society at large. Let us choose wisely” – Nora Volkow
Addiction is a medical disease that is primary, cognitive, progressive, and it can be terminal. This means that there is a biological and mental aspect. Addicted individuals become physically and biologically dependent on substances usually in order to cope with mental pain.
The behavioral symptoms of addiction like erratic behavior and impaired judgement result in negative consequences in one’s relationships, whether that be professional or personal relationships. It can also result in legal trouble. It is difficult not to stigmatize addiction or chemical dependency when an individual’s actions caused by their addiction result in so much shame and pain for themselves and those around them. However, this shameful attitude towards addiction, that has developed over a century, causes people to hide their addiction. As a result, 21 million people struggle with addiction in America alone, and only 1 in 10 people receive treatment. The addiction crisis is only becoming worse.
How WE can fix it
Although chemical dependency is a disease, recognized by the Surgeon General, it is seen as a choice. Rather than being seen as sick, addicts are seen as deviant, irresponsible, problematic and even criminal. Nora Volkow believes that the solution is to change the way that society views addiction and to recognize that it is preventable. She says that we blame and judge the “undesirable attributes of ‘others’”, per our human nature which is overall penalizing our society as a whole. She mentions that there is research proving that, “the integration of drug abuse treatment into the criminal justice system facilitates an individual’s successful reentry into society, with positive impacts on public health and safety”. There is not one solution, and there are a lot of complicated factors that contribute to addiction. Although it is a big issue, it is important and the benefits of dealing with the problem of addiction, that plagues our world, far outweigh the difficulty of tackling this problem.
!!!PSA!!! Yes, you read that right, this is a 9 minute Ted Talk, but I promise it is entertaining and if you do watch it and feel otherwise, I will Venmo you $1…that is a joke, I will not do that but please watch.
Why YOU Should Care
Now that you’ve reached the end of my project, I hope that you’ve learned a little about the toll that stigma has on someone suffering with addiction. Before I ask you to help me catalyze change, I just want to reiterate why this issue is so important. This issue affects everyone, regardless of whether or not you have any connection to addiction in your life. You do not have to have experience with the disease, know someone struggling or even know what it is, to be affected. 10% of the American population struggles with addiction and that doesn’t even include the family and friends around an addicted individual who also struggle. While I couldn’t find any worldwide statistics it can be inferred that the issue of addiction is not unique to the United States. I believe that if someone were to take statistics on all of the addicted individuals and the people around them who are affected by their disease, we would be able to see that a large chunk of the world’s population is affected by substance use disorders. Society cannot function properly under these conditions. Addicted individuals often times have a hard time keeping a job or even getting one in the first place. The economy, health and well-being of the world are directly affected by substance abuse and so are each of you.
Now, Here’s What YOU can DO
The notion of recover out loud calls upon recovering addicts to share their stories of recovery in order to encourage others to start on their journey to recovery. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Stigma is what causes people to obscure their struggle with addiction. Every step, that we take as a society, towards reducing stigma facilitates the “Recover Out Loud Movement.” I reached out to the Hazelden Betty Ford foundation’s department of advocacy, and I received a link to a program that advocates for the importance of reducing stigma.
I encourage you to click this link and join the movement:
In addition, I ask you to sign this pledge to reduce stigma around all mental illness:
Although it is not directly about addiction, often times addiction is the result of mental health issues and vise versa.