Addiction is a disease

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A brief history of addiction

In early American history, the concept that a person can be chemically dependent on a substance was not known.  In fact, addiction was once treated as a faith-based issue, complete with prescribed faith-based prayer as a solution to one’s addiction.  Thus, society largely saw addiction as a criminal offense. Benjamin Rush, who was one of the founding fathers of America, was one of the first to believe that alcoholism was not a result of one’s will or moral failure, but rather that it was due to the alcohol itself.  Rush was seen as radical at that time due to this belief. As more and more men like Rush gained a better understanding of addiction, institutions devoted to addiction began to form.  One of the earliest addiction treatment centers was the New York State Inebriate Asylum, which was started in 1864. This institution was the first to view alcoholism as a mental health issue and not as a moral or spiritual shortcoming.

The stigma of addiction

Even today, with advancements in science and verified proof that addiction is a chemical process in the brain, society largely looks at addictions of any kind as being a result of a person’s “weak” moral standing.  This can affect the addicted in the sense that they believe themselves to be “weak” or “worthless,” due to their addiction.  In worse case scenarios the result is sometimes suicide before seeking treatment, but depression is usually one of the side effects of not fully understanding one’s addiction.  To combat this, the public should look at a few examples of Hollywood actors who brought themselves back from the brink of destruction, due to addiction.  These rebounded Hollywood actors, like Robert Downey Jr., have not only beat their addiction, they have also come back with stronger careers.  However, the overwhelming cultural attitude towards addiction is still just as it was in the 1800s, people mostly judge victims of addiction on moral principles and not medically proven scientific facts. Addiction should be largely treated and viewed as any other disease, including cancer, diabetes, stroke or heart disease.  Those who have experimented with smoking or alcohol, and never became addicted to those substances, should understand that their physiology may be more “immune” to addiction, as opposed to those who became addicted to those substances.

Today’s state of addiction

Today, out of 350 million people over 20 million people in the United States are addicted to some kind of substance. In fact, every day 100 people die from drug overdoses in America, a staggering amount!  President Trump even called attention to the crisis when he said, “together, we will face this challenge as a national family with conviction, with unity, and with a commitment to love and support our neighbors in times of dire need. Working together, we will defeat this opioid epidemic.”  Opioid addiction, which is the deadliest addiction facing America today, is devastating nearly every aspect of American society, from suburbia to upscale neighborhoods.  Even companies are reporting a labor shortage due to so many able-bodiedAmericans being racked with Opioid addiction.  Luckily, addiction centers such as the Maryland Addiction Recovery Center and others like them are readily available for those in need of addiction recovery.

The stigma of addiction is still a problem

Today we must understand that addiction needs to be managed, much like a chronic illness.  When our loved ones go into rehab for 30 or 60 days we must not expect a cure-all for addiction. Instead, much like any other chronic disease, addiction has to be monitored and controlled throughout one’s life.  For this reason, one must not fall into the thinking their constant battle with addiction is a moral or spiritual failing, but rather it is imperative that they understand that addiction is just like any other chronic disease.