It is difficult for many people to accept that addiction is a major part of their lives. Whether it is you yourself or a loved one that is the addict it carries with it a social stigma that stings everyone around you. When society imposes a stigma it only adds to the harm that the family experiences because of the addict’s behavior. Some view it as a character flaw or a weakness that can never be controlled but the fact is that this stigma that is imposed because of the addiction is a major cause of problems in our lives today.
Addiction Is a Disease
In reality, addiction is a complex and often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive behaviors despite the negative consequences that the addict may experience. For many people the first choice to take drugs or alcohol is voluntary, but with the addict the brain changes as a result of continued drinking and can hinder the individuals self control resulting in an inability to resist impulses to continue their addictive habits.
As far back as 1953 the American Medical Association defined addiction as a preventable disease. However, because of the stigma that has permeated society for years, needed funding to treat patients with these issues has not been made available. While other diseases like diabetes have received Federal funding for treatment, addicts have only been able to receive funding through private sources.
It has been people like Betty Ford who has raised awareness of addiction when she publicly announced her long-running battle with alcoholism in the 1970s. She was forced to confront her addictive habits through an intervention by her family in 1978 and after her recovery she became a champion for the cause.
Once her recovery was complete, she established the Betty Ford Center for the treatment of chemical dependency that started a change in some people’s minds about what could be done about this problem. Others have followed her example and because of them there are treatment centers all in every city to help people who have this disease to overcome it.
What Is Needed Today
While many have come forward to help people recognize the true nature of addiction, the stigma that society as a whole has imposed is still very strong. People still believe that being a drug addict or an alcoholic is a matter of choice and have not recognized that the disease can be prevented and controlled with proper care and treatment.
Just as a diabetic can improve their health by learning how to manage their sugar levels and follow the proper diet, addicts can also learn how to turn off their addictive behaviors if given the proper training.
Once people recognize that addiction is not just a problem facing individuals but is something that every person and every family has to deal with they will be more ready to remove the social stigma that has prevented many from getting the help they need to recover from the disease that they all must share.