A History of Hate
We hate addicts.
We know we shouldn’t, but we do.
We say hate the addiction and love the addict, but we don’t. And it’s not our fault. Not entirely: Our society and culture have been steeped in a long history of reviling addicts. It’s integral to both our religious traditions – the Bible has zero tolerance for the drunkard and the Koran forbids all intoxicants outright (they’re Satanic devices) – and our criminal justice system. How could we not help but see them as immoral and criminal?
Because of this tradition of enmity, we’d rather see IV drug users overdose or face the risk spreading infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C than to allow them access to maintenance drugs and safe injection sites. We’d rather see addicts sent to jail as criminals than offer them rehabilitation from a medically treatable condition.
The truth is addicts are in pain. To help them should be considered an act of compassion.
This is why we need compassion.
If you think because you’ve never had a drug habit that you’re immune to addiction, think again.
Anyone can become an addict.
Risk factors don’t discriminate: High stress, early drug exposure, childhood abuse, physical or sexual abuse, mental disorders like bipolar disorder or depression, trauma, poor social support, social exclusion, or genetic predisposition can increase your risk for drug abuse. Add youth, peer pressure, high IQs (yes, smarter people are a higher risk), a heightened sensitivity to the effects of drugs, and your risk increases again.
Consider this: 10 percent of Americans over the age of 12 will have a drug use disorder at some point in their lives. That’s more than 23 million of us. Of that number, only 11 percent of them will receive treatment.
Chances are this problem will affect a close friend or a member of your family. Chances are, in one way or another – directly or indirectly, it will affect you.
And if that wasn’t reason enough, there’s this:
4 Reasons Why We Need Compassion for Addicts:
- Because they are sick: As noted above, drug abuse often arises from a mix of complex issues. For those who have suffered sexual or physical abuse or parental neglect will have double the risk of addiction. The choice of substance abuse may be the result of attempts to medicate away or obliterate a pain. Addiction, once it takes hold, is not logical. It is very often a coping mechanism for a greater pain.Addiction is a disease. Or, if you prefer, a behavior associated with craving and temporary relief and the long-term consequences that go along with it. It is a craving that the addicted can’t give up and are too often convinced is out of their control – an entirely chemically-induced perception.
- Because their brain is no longer theirs: Through the abuse of substances, the addict’s brain has been chemically hacked down to its very cells. It is no longer structurally or functionally the same. The reward center has been manipulated. Normal rewards from activities such as earning a raise at your job, eating good food, or even sex are dwarfed when compared to chemical thrills. Unlike natural pleasures, drugs create a link to a reward that is completely disproportionate to the normal sacrifices of hard work. This difference has been likened to the difference between someone whispering into your ear and someone shouting into a microphone. One significant downside to this surge is that at the other end, pleasurable brain chemicals in the absence of the drugs drop way below normal levels. Let go long enough and the addict with feel “dope” sick or worse, depending on the drugs used.
- Because we are an addiction society: We exist in an addiction culture. We are inundated constantly with messages and images urging us to buy stuff that promises to soothe the hole in our souls and take away our pain. Everywhere there are problems that can only be fixed with commercial products – our capitalist economy depends on it. It’s been said that the addict has become the symbol for all of our self-loathing.In the speed of our lives, we often don’t have time to pause and self-observe. We lose the inclination and willingness to admit to our problems and faults with honesty. In turn we look for less effective short-term fixes that perpetuate illusions that all is well. We live in denial. To preserve this denial, we indulge in addictive substances.As a result, pharmaceutical drugs are being prescribed at unprecedented levels. Drug sales are at record highs and one in four American women is on psychiatric medication. In time, people turn from prescription drugs to illicit drugs that don’t need a doctor’s prescription and are cheaper – far cheaper. And so it goes.
- Because we understand addiction as a weakness and failure: Traditionally, our culture has seen addiction as a moral weakness or a failure of self-control. This we need to stop. While it’s true that at some point or another everyone was cooperative in their own addiction, the exact moment when control is lost is more ambiguous. Even those who use highly addictive substances, such as opiates or even tobacco, had a time in their experience, be it for weeks or even months, when they could take it or leave it. Then one day – one moment – everything changes. Suddenly, to not use becomes a dreadfully sickening experience; drug-taking is now compulsive. You are drug dependent.
Confronting Addiction: Complicated But Doable
The reasons why some people become addicted while others don’t are complicated and not always well understood. This we do know: There is a lot more to people’s use of drugs than getting high. It’s about a lot more than boredom, a need for stimulation, a way to combat stress, or simply self-soothing. It is about something much more important and powerful: People use substances for hundreds of different and idiosyncratic reasons. For them, what is needed is a caring and careful investigation of their actual experiences and the assumption that their compulsion to use has a basis in intelligence and genuine emotional need.
Addiction can’t be overcome simply with talk: The addict needs to be offered in return something as profound as their compulsion to use substances. It is only in this way that the addict can discover the deeper reasons and meaning behind their motivation to use and abuse of substances.
If you or a loved one feels a need to overcome an addiction, contact BLVD Treatment Centers. At BLVD Treatment Centers we custom tailor our recovery programs within the safe and nurturing confines of our rehab treatment centers. Located throughout Southern California, in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and in Portland, OR, our mission is to assess the severity of your addiction to help you achieve true recovery. Call us now at 1-866.582.9844.