What comes to mind when you picture a typical drug or alcohol addict? Is the person you’re envisioning well-off, or living from paycheck to paycheck? How old are they? No matter what your mental image might be, it’s almost certainly not an accurate representation of the entire segment of the population that struggles with addiction. According to a report from the U.S. surgeon general’s office, one in seven people will face substance misuse disorders at some point in their life.
Anyone Can Develop an Addiction
Despite all the advancements medical science has made in understanding addiction as a chronic illness, there is still a persistent stigma surrounding addicts as people who are somehow “less than” those who never get trapped in the cycle of addictive behavior. However, those of us who work with addicted people every day know that addiction is a great equalizer. People from all walks of life can have issues with substance misuse. It is indifferent to your race, socioeconomic status, age, religious beliefs, educational background, gender identity and sexual orientation.
Instead of empathizing with the challenges of those who live with an addiction, some members of society prefer to take shortcuts by putting labels on them. If you have never known an addicted person or dealt with substance misuse issues yourself, you might assume someone with substance use disorder is a criminal who lacks self-control and doesn’t care about others, which is hardly ever the truth. The reality is that, like other diseases, addiction is a sickness that gets progressively worse without treatment.
Just like everyone else, addicts have people they love and look up to. They have dreams and goals. Nobody begins using substances like opioids, benzodiazepines or alcohol with the goal of losing it all to addiction. That’s why you shouldn’t judge people who have substance use disorders. Instead, treat them with compassion, and try to understand that what they’re going through could happen to anybody.
Erasing the Stigma
Drug and alcohol addiction is more than capable of ruining anyone’s life, no matter how successful you are in your career or at managing your family’s needs. Often, people who seem to have it all together in public are struggling to maintain control in private. For example, most of us can remember at least one story of a shocking celebrity overdose, such as music legends Tom Petty and Prince. By any measure, these bright lights had achieved levels of fame, fortune and success most of us can only dream about. What could make someone who apparently has it all turn to drug and alcohol misuse?
Stories like these reinforce the point that you can never fully understand what pain someone might be experiencing inside. And, for every well-publicized preventable tragedy, imagine how many more happen to average people who aren’t living their lives in the spotlight. If our culture fostered an environment where people could freely admit they have an addiction problem without fear of judgment or ridicule, perhaps we could have saved the lives of some of the 70,200 Americans who died of accidental drug overdoses in 2017.
Individualized Treatment Plans for Substance Misuse Disorders
At New Found Life, we offer a comprehensive continuum of addiction treatment that helps men and women who want to make a fresh start. Through individual and group therapies and immersion in the principles of the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous, our clients can begin to identify and explore the underlying causes of addictive behavior. Contact our Long Beach rehab facility 24/7 to learn more.