Changing the perception of addicts in the minds of those who are not addicts is probably the only way we will make any progress in the so-called “war on drugs.” Putting people in jail for drug use is no different than putting someone in jail for overeating. Yes, we as a nation vilify overweight people almost as much as we do addicts. But we don’t arrest them for being overweight. The point I’m making is that addiction is a rational disorder based on the same comfort-seeking and pain-avoidance that drives all human behavior. Addiction feels like love, which I wrote about in my most recent article. (You can read it here: Addicted To Opioids Addicted To Love)
I came across a feed in one of my social media accounts that stated, “The core of addiction is not wanting to be present in your life, because your life is too painful a place to be. This is why imposing more pain or punishment on a person with an addiction problem actually makes their addiction worse.” As often happens, I followed this link to yet another and another and went down the proverbial rabbit hole and found this posted by the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition: “There is a stronger link between childhood trauma and addiction than there is between obesity and diabetes. Two thirds of addicts report being abused as children. That means that the war on drugs is a war on traumatized people that just need help.”
No matter how a person becomes addicted to any substance, the fact is that they are in pain and they need help not punishment. I’ve been treating pain without drugs or surgeries for my entire career. I am an advocate of compassionate treatment of anyone suffering from substance abuse of any kind. I understand that addiction is a brain disorder, and we don’t know enough yet about the role the brain plays in addiction to spark widespread compassion. But I continue to hold out hope that this will happen and hopefully in my lifetime.