Addiction is a disease, there is no doubt about it. But why do people whisper or hint around the topic when they are talking about someone they know whom is struggling with substances? Let's face it, at some point or another, we have tiptoed around using the words addicted or dependent. There's just something about the word that terrifies us. Maybe your perception of someone addicted to drugs and alcohol is a dark shadow in the alleyway or a homeless person under the bridge or even a dangerous criminal.
However, is that truly valid ? Does everyone who suffer from the disease of addiction end up like one of these three people. No. Of course not, but it does not mean our perceptions have changed. Amy Wilson, the Clinical Director at ExecuCare Addiction Recovery Center, recently wrote an article about people's perceptions toward addiction. In her article, Amy discussed the results of a recent survey posted in The American Journal of Psychiatry. The survey revealed data to suggest the general public still carries a negative attitude toward someone struggling from the disease of addiction.
Why do people still carry a negative attitude toward addiction? Could it be that our education system taught us that drugs are dangerous and people that do drugs are bad? Remember, when you were in elementary school and pictures of dangerous people were paired with drugs and alcohol? Well, these images have most likely not left our mind. However, I'm not saying what the school system did was wrong, in fact it's best to associate drug use with danger, but none the less, it's imperative as human beings we recognize people may be using drugs to deal with traumatic life events. Sexual, physical, and verbal abuse is a major reason many people use drugs and alcohol.
The disease model for addiction suggests some people have a genetic blueprint that is more likely to become addicted to drugs and when this personality type is combined with a traumatic life event, drug usage may be unstoppable. With this in mind, I challenge the public to step back and take a deeper thought before associating the word 'bad' with someone suffering from the disease of addiction. Think about why this person is struggling with addiction and offer compassion before you offer judgement.