“Addiction is a not a disease: We must change our attitudes toward addicts…or they will continue to die not only from effects of addiction but from stigma and judgment prevalent in every level of our society today…”
Health professionals too often think and behave negatively toward addicts and addiction. Doctors, nurses, mental health workers, judges, police. It is everywhere and, on every level, plus addict’s experience trauma and judgment stigma from their loved ones. People would rather judge than try to understand and show empathy for many reasons, although show me a person in society today who doesn’t suffer from an addiction and I can show you a falsehood.
Whether you are addicted to social media hello aren’t we all to some degree coffee, tea, chocolate, marathons, exercise, food, travel, escapism you are addicted to something). In this, we share the attitudes of our society, in which substance abuse is one of the last remaining socially acceptable targets for public discrimination. But we ought to know better by now.
If we are to succeed in treating addiction as a health issue, and not a moral one which it is, we need to acknowledge and overcome our negative attitudes so that we can help patients with addiction and guide how the public perceives them.
Everyone needs to play a part in these reforms and social justice because we want it for ourselves, we want our rights and freedoms, if they get taken away from vulnerable members of our society then they will be taken away from us too eventually. Just like we have seen happen in our world history. Misconceptions, stigma and ignorance about those who suffer from addiction are widespread.
It is a bitter pill to swallow when you go to these professionals for assistance and you get nothing but ignorance due to a lack of education surrounding these new drugs of addiction, in a large part thanks to destructive cults like AA & its many offshoots which has spread so rapidly because it’s a part of a system that is influenced by corruption in pharmaceutical companies who are out for profit & go to any lengths to gain that corporate greed.
They work with 12 Step Programs under the guise of treatment and we are ignorant of the fact that these meetings and programs have been shown to do far more harm than good for its clients. So we keep pumping them through institutions that are based on models that harm its clients. We are all too prone, consciously or subconsciously, to fall back on the prejudices we along with our fellow citizens have naturally acquired. These prejudices lead us to view the behaviours of smokers, alcoholics and other substance users as moral and lifestyle choices, even if we practice these or one of these things ourselves.
In contrast, there is a large and growing body of evidence about the neurobiological basis for addiction behaviours, the role of genetic, environmental and epidemiologic factors, and the effectiveness of biologically based interventions for addiction cognitive behaviour therapy, and dialectal behaviour therapies (including harm reduction strategies).
This evidence demonstrates that substance use is a matter of behavioural choice, people use addictive substances because they eventually generate intense brain responses — reward, craving and withdrawal — mediated by neurotransmitters (particularly dopamine) that potently drive behaviour.
Stimuli and stressors in a user’s environment reinforce addictive behaviour. Many genetic polymorphisms and environmental these all play a part and have been identified that enhance addictive responses by altering receptor sensitivity or drug metabolism. Over time, continued substance use causes permanent anatomic and chemical changes in the brain, which is not the same as Bill Wilson’s notion of the disease theory which has been shown by scientific evidence to be false.
Addiction is not a chronic relapsing DISEASE. It is a behavioural choice in the beginning made from the factors outlined above.
We do not expect the hearts of patients with heart disease to behave normally — we understand that their function has been altered by disease. In this same way addicts & alcoholics don’t behave the same due to the changes made by the substance they are ingesting.
There is room for legitimate debate about what therapeutic and policy interventions should be adopted for addiction. Societal values have a rightful place in this debate. The role played in addiction, as in other diseases, by elements of choice and personal responsibility must also be acknowledged, provided we recognize how addiction itself impairs this role. However, the debate must proceed based on scientific evidence and rational argument, not on myths or political ideology or hairbrained idea without scientific merit from an old alike who started up a fellowship for addicts and alcoholics and created this mass machine called the 12 Steps who work in conjunction with the drug companies etc. etc.
Increasing political and scientific interest in how best to deal with addiction will likely continue to fuel broad public discussion. Health professionals are uniquely qualified to inform and influence this discussion.
But to do so coherently, let alone effectively, we must first change our own latent discriminatory attitudes. This means consciously training ourselves to think about and behave toward the patients with addiction we encounter on our wards, in our offices and in front of our hospitals.
This will be challenging — perhaps as challenging as breaking free from addiction — but only then can we truly deliver appropriate, supportive and professional care to all who struggle with this difficult and often life-destroying problem.
PubMed, NIDA, NAMI actually too many Organisations are currently involved in this widespread dissemination of misinformation to the public even though as a whole and many do not understand the ramifications of what they’re doing, most are good and genuine people just wrongly educated.
So many of the big sites that are there for drug information are influenced so heavily by the pharmaceutical companies and it flows down to the level of nurses, doctors, psychiatrists, and so many more yet this is a tragedy that causes death. I for one cannot allow it to go on in my lifetime without speaking out and I am starting now no matter what the cost. At least I have a chance at life with this new evidence and research.
We have a chance here and now. We now have a better opportunity to recover and do it right. To recover with tools, we haven’t had before.
How exciting is the future we looked through the lens of researchers like Stanton Peele, Gabor Matte and all these wonderful people in the system like my counsellor working from within a broken system to fix it. We owe these men and women our lives and thank god they cared enough.
by Penny Dean ` life experience editor