One of the most important things to remember about addiction is that the so-called "addict" is in fact the victim. The addiction is not the fault of the person who's struggling against it.
Addiction is severely stigmatized in our society, however. When people don't realize that addiction is a disease, they often end up blaming the victim.
Representation in the Media
Unfortunately, blogs and the 24-hour news cycle, along with their constant push for new stories, have led to more stories about addiction that are not balanced. There are really only a few stories (with small variations) that the media ends up telling:
- An addict gets high on drugs and does something horrible.
- A celebrity falls from grace into alcoholism or drug addiction.
- A famous person overdoses because they couldn't handle drugs or alcohol.
Media portrayals of people who take drugs usually portray them as dangerous, unpredictable, and morally flawed. Informal news outlets like blogs will often use words like junkie, addict, drunk, or lush.
No doubt many of the people who are incarcerated for drug offenses belong in jail. Dealers, distributors, or gang members are safer to keep away from society. However, the harsh penalties that exist for drug possession means that people who struggle with addiction can wind up in jail for years. Research shows that jail is not the answer to fighting addiction. Addiction treatment is the truly effective option.
Fighting Against the Stigma
Something needs to change in the portrayal of addiction. More people are realizing that addiction is a disease. The efforts of grassroots organizations like Faces and Voices of Recovery are invaluable in the fight against stigma.
When addiction is seen for what it is, instead of as a moral failing, people will be able to speak much more openly about their struggles, and that leads to much better treatment. People will have greater access to drug rehab when they can be open about their struggle.