At the beginning of the twentieth century, the prevailing opinion was that addiction is a moral issue. Alcoholics and drug addicts were considered “sinners,” and they were often scorned by laypeople and doctors alike. Some got help through religious services or psychiatric care, but many were locked up in asylums with mental patients.
By the mid-1900s, however, most medical professionals had come to realize that addiction is a physiological disease. Doctors now understand that addicts suffer from a wide array of medical complications, and that many of them are genetically predisposed to habit formation. The current epidemic of drug and alcohol addiction has also convinced many laypeople that addiction is indeed a chronic condition.
Stigmatization of Addicts
Despite the progress in addiction science, there is still rampant stigmatization of people with drug problems. Addicted celebrities are mocked and scorned, and people who use drugs are often thought to be degenerates and low-lives. Also, those who are unfamiliar with addiction often buy into the stereotype that addicts are homeless, uneducated, and hopeless charity cases. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.
Illegality and Social Perception
A great deal of the public’s perception of addiction may stem from a senseless distinction between legal and illegal drugs. Heroin, cocaine, meth, and marijuana are all banned, and people who abuse them are usually viewed with contempt. In fact, even casual users of these drugs tend to be unsympathetic towards severe addicts.
On the other hand, alcohol and prescription opiates are legal – yet still extremely dangerous. American society tends to encourage heavy drinking, and powerful painkillers are prescribed en masse. Since these substances are legal, people who get hooked on them experience far less stigmatization. Ironically, the idea that legal drugs are safer may cause addicts not to seek help.
Thankfully, mainstream opinion regarding drugs and addiction is finally starting to change. Media outlets are constantly publishing stories about the dangers of prescription drugs, and many people now understand how addictive alcohol can be. Even though reality shows make jokes out of rehab, drug treatment is also gaining acceptance across many demographics.
In addition, a large numbers of people are starting to speak out against the War on Drugs. Strict policies of prohibition and incarceration have clearly resulted in more crime and addiction, and taxpayers and voters are fed up. Prison time has not reduced drug crime or abuse, and even non-addicts are coming to understand that addicts truly need help – not punishment or scorn.
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, don’t give up hope. Pick up the phone, and call the number at the top of your screen. Our dedicated counselors are standing by day and night to get you started on an inpatient drug rehab program – one that will have you back on your feet, living the live you deserve.