When you think about addiction what is the first thing/sight that comes to mind? An old lady struggling with pain? A young mother who hides who prescriptions and frequent refills from her family? The son or daughter who steals medicine from his/her parents or other family members? The one that uses lunch money or allowance to purchase pills from other students? These are not the normal images that one thinks of when considering what addiction looks like. The average American probably considers something that they have seen in ads, magazines or in feature films. They might picture Christian Bale in his leading role as a boxer’s trainer, where he was so thin he looked ill. Scenes of him in a ‘crack house’ abusing drugs, while dirty, disoriented and otherwise derelict. They consider the image of a homeless man begging for money or ‘nodding-off’ on the sidewalk. They type of person that most would cross the street early to avoid coming in contact with; this is the stigma of drug addiction/abuse. Why is this important? It is important because this stigma reduces and prevents those from getting the help they need. It prevents society and government from fighting for these lost individuals. It prevents it from creating and maintaining programs that can rehabilitate those suffering from addiction. The question then becomes, why giving a face to addiction might help end the stigma? The answer, because it shows addiction for what it really is…A problem that affects all levels of society. Addiction knows no bounds and has no discrimination.
Addiction and Families
You do not truly understand depression and despair until you have witnessed a loved one suffer from addiction and lost that battle. What most people do not realize is that addiction related injury and deaths have outnumbered motor vehicle deaths; this is significant because motor vehicle injury/deaths have been the leading cause of death in the nation for decades. The issue of addiction and substance abuse is much greater than the majority of society understands. This is not a small irrelevant issue that only affects the lowest rungs of society. Rather, this is an issue that is devastating all levels of society. Families of addicts are the ones that are affected the most. Watching a loved one slowly deteriorate as a result of drug abuse is horrific. Many families do not understand how they enable the addiction or how they are to help fight it. These issues are all a result of the addiction stigma.
Giving a Face to Addiction
The old image of addiction is just that, old. It is outdated, incorrect and not helpful in the progress of combating substance abuse and addiction. If addiction is the depressed, homeless and non-contributing members of society, then there really is not a problem with addiction in this country. It is something that can continue to be overlooked because it is not a detriment to the majority. The truth is that addiction is much greater than this ignorant vision. Changing the face of it will help end the stigma and comparatively provide more resources to those in need. When addiction is shown and perceived to be what it really is (an issue that affects all and continues to grow in younger children) society can start to make real change. When addiction is viewed with an image of a young mother, student or other more ordinary person compassion can thrive, while prejudice subsides. This will help those afraid of being looked down upon to reach out for the help they need. It will empower families to speak out about their troubles and other families to share their success and failures to those who need to hear it.