Letter to the Editor: Can society end drug addiction?

To the Editor:

Drug addiction is not well understood in modern society. A better approach to the way we view both drugs and drug addicts would go a long way to improving treatment outcomes. It could also change treatment options themselves. A more welcoming and understanding attitude throughout society is necessary for a serious reform on the way we approach drug addiction treatment.

First of all, the way society treats drug addicts is so judgmental and closed minded that it is no small surprise addicts have trouble keeping clean sometimes. In our society, once a person suffers from drug addiction, they are painted with a tarred brush. They will face judgment and suspicion for the rest of their lives. It is a heavy burden that follows recovering addicts as they try to get on with their lives, making that job much more difficult. It’s hard to get a job or secure stable living with a dark cloud of suspicion.

One significant improvement that society could make is to stop thinking of addicts as addicts and start thinking of them as people with addictions. An addiction does not define a person - it affects them. There is much more to a person than whatever illness might affect them, but society sometimes has trouble seeing that. Changing that perspective would give people with addiction a better chance at recovery by encouraging a person-first viewpoint. While addiction is a lifelong problem, it does not need to be a lifelong sentence that suppresses all the other aspects of a person and the contributions that they can make to society.

It would also be a boon to treatment if society would learn to accept a wider range of treatments. Right now, many people think of nothing besides 12-step programs when they envision addiction recovery. But there is so much more in the way of new and innovative treatments that have proliferated throughout the country. More scientific research is necessary to explore what treatment methods work and how to tailor different treatment regimens to different drugs and personalities. Of course, not everyone can benefit from any kind of a treatment, but a holistic approach that incorporates elements of different traditions, therapies, and techniques stands a good chance at building a blend that can deliver a powerful solution with a higher likelihood of working.

If a person with an addiction has a supportive environment and a personal network of social support, then chances of recovery are much better. Nobody can deal with big challenges alone, and that includes addiction. That is why it is crucial to emphasize how much support and consideration people with addiction need to overcome their own challenges. That is not to say that any criminal behavior needs to be overlooked, but addictions do not happen to weak or evil people - they undermine the personality and morality of the otherwise good people.

There is a good person underneath any addiction, who just needs a chance to deal with their addiction on their own terms. Unfortunately, people tend to distance themselves from addicts. That social distance makes it even harder for people with addictions to handle their heavy burden. Right when people with addictions need extra support, they have less support than they ever had before.

The bottom line is that people with addictions need a lot of outside help - it just isn’t possible to muscle through an addiction. Society needs to be more accepting of behavioral issues in general and addiction in particular. A welcoming society would make a huge difference in how people with addictions are able to make progress in their lives.

Mark Jacobson
Peer Support Specialist
Winona, MN


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