Taking Responsibility to Help End the Overdose Crisis
In the wake of the opioid epidemic, our country is now completely aware of the devastating addiction problem we have in the United States. It has raged for decades (not just from drugs, but from alcohol as well), but it can no longer be ignored. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 70,237 overdose deaths in the United States in 2017.
Now more than ever, we each have a responsibility to educate ourselves about the cause of addiction and the nature of recovery. As experts in substance use disorder treatment, our staff at New Directions for Women takes every available opportunity to smash stigma by giving the straight scoop about substance abuse to the public.
In this article, want to set the record straight about the cause of addiction (now commonly referred to as a “substance use disorder”). And, we want to make it very clear: there is NO SHAME in admitting you need help if you are struggling with a substance use disorder.
Common Misperceptions About Addiction
Sadly, our country is still largely divided about how it explains the problem of addiction.
Many believe it is a choice; that an addicted person has no one to blame but themselves. Others believe it is a sin – that it comes from the devil and only religion can save the addict. And, there are those who believe an addict has some sort of character flaw that makes them weak, bad, or lacking in good moral character.
None of these so-called “theories” speak to the root cause of a substance use disorder. They are myths that have been foolishly perpetuated by those who don’t know the facts. The reality is that addiction is a disease. An illness. A sickness. A health problem. Unless we treat it as such, we have no hope for a better future.
We cannot afford to continue on the current trajectory of ignorance. If we do, women of all walks of life will continue to die by the tens of thousands from a fatal overdose of street drugs or prescription narcotics. It is time to smash the stigma surrounding addiction and recovery. Societal perceptions of addiction must change.
Let’s Be Clear – Addiction is a Disease, not a Choice
Contrary to popular belief, addiction is not a choice. Who would choose to be a hopeless addict enslaved by a dependence on drugs like crystal meth, prescription narcotics, or heroin? No one wakes up one day and says, “You know what? I think being an addict sounds super fun. I definitely want to live that lifestyle. I think I will go out and get hooked on drugs today.”
Addiction is a deadly disease that destroys every individual it comes into contact with. It rips families apart. It causes financial devastation, legal difficulties, unemployment, and health problems. No one chooses this illness.
Understanding Addiction by Defining it as a Health Problem
Addiction is recognized as a legitimate illness by every medical authority in the United States. This includes the American Medical Association, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
NIDA has perhaps the best definition of addiction for the layperson:
” Addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder characterized by compulsive drug seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness.”
Our president called the country’s substance abuse problem a “public health emergency” in 2017. Please stop and think about this for a minute. We have an acknowledgment by the federal government that addiction is a health concern – NOT a choice, sin, or character flaw. We have support from the medical community that a substance use disorder is a treatable disease. Shouldn’t this be enough evidence to end this debate once and for all?
You Are Not a Bad Person, You are a Sick Person
Because addiction is a disease – not a choice – you should never be ashamed of reaching out for help. Just as someone with a life-threatening illness like cancer would never be judged for getting treatment, neither should you. A substance abuse disorder is a progressive and chronic illness that can be fatal if left untreated.
Many people are terrified of being judged by the people close to them because of their drug of choice. It truly does not matter if you are hooked on alcohol, Fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, or crystal meth. All of these drugs (and even marijuana) can lead to addiction, which can cause you to make poor lifestyle choices.
You may have made some bad decisions in your addiction, but you are not a bad person. You are not weak. You are not morally corrupt. You are sick. And, you need to get well. Wellness happens at a residential rehab or an outpatient program. It really is that simple.
Once you make this distinction – that you are sick, not bad – it might be easier for you to ask for help with your substance use disorder.
No Shame – Smashing the Stigma
We cannot emphasize this enough: there is NO SHAME in admitting that you are addicted to drugs or alcohol and that you need help.
Although we still have a long way to go, perceptions of drug addiction have changed for the better in recent years. People will not be as unforgiving or judgmental as you think they will be when you reach out for help.
In fact, those closest to you will feel a deep sense of relief and gratitude when you become willing to do something about your problem. It takes great strength and courage to make the decision to get sober. Recovery is not for sissies. It is for those who make the commitment to do the necessary work to live and enjoy a sober lifestyle.
A Beautiful Life in Recovery Awaits You
We are a substance use disorder treatment center that is run by women for women. Many of the women on our staff are in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction. We offer a healthy support system for the women who come to us for help.
We take a compassionate approach to recovery. Our treatment programs foster an atmosphere of healing and an environment of acceptance.
We know how difficult it is for a woman to reach out for help. We respond to this effort with an invitation to join our community of recovering women and receive effective addiction treatment services.
Let go of your shame. Get help now. *We know recovery. *
The recovery process is a beautiful experience that will take you places you never imagined. Need some motivation to reach out for help? Here are 11 awesome things that happen when you get sober.