When it comes to addiction, we as a society get a solid F for handling the problem. The way addicts are treated is much like the way the homeless are dealt with, just give them some directives to get it together, offer little help, and wait for them to resurface only to repeat the same directives. I guess we just are dull when it comes to actually being proactive in helping these people. First off, agencies and professionals could recognize addicts as humans with a disease, not simply people who make bad choices. They could also put in place some tools that will actually help the addict escape the nightmare they want so badly out of.
So far we jail the addict for having drugs, we watch them do a whole lot of nothing in jail and we arrest them again when they get out and start the cycle over. That is hardly cutting edge treatment, I think we treat the actual criminal better than that with many rehab programs and re-entry programs they can enroll in to prepare for their life outside of jail. However with the addict, we continue to be non-committal and do very little to advance them into another phase of their life. It seems we still have not decided how to treat them, like criminals or like people with a disease. Either way the addict is many times stuck out in the cold to defend themselves when their own family, friends and society has labeled them as hopeless or useless.
I think in order for there to be any real change in the system we are going to have to push for an appropriate label to be given to the addict. The label should be born out of a medical mindset since we know that a disease is a disease, as much as we like to try and make it into a matter of the will. Just for a second we should think about the millions of people who pour into AA and NA meetings each day, only to enjoy a 5% success rate. Yes 5%. How about the many rich and famous people who can buy anything they want but continue to be arrested over and over due to some substance they cannot shake. Do we really think that these people prefer being humiliated in the spotlight, losing their children, money and maybe careers simply to have the pleasure of the substance? I think we all understand there must be more to it than that, so now we must live it out in the system and how we help the addict. Lets begin to love the addict and hate the addiction.
Sid Vicious, Anna Nicole Smith, Whitney Houston, Judy Garland, John Belushi, Michael Jackson, Lenny Bruce, Kurt Cobain, Chris Farley. Is it possible that one or more of these people may be alive today had they been aware that they actually had a medical disease and were treated accordingly? Not to mention the millions of suicides that have occurred as a result of drugs. People who died of cancer surely are remembered in a much more sympathetic light than those who died of an overdose. Should this be?