Addiction is a harrowing experience for anyone to go through or witness. When it comes to safeguarding our health, there is a general consensus that all of us should be doing our absolute best to create the healthiest life possible for ourselves. Unfortunately, sometimes the dice is rolled for us. People do not always get the choice when it comes to controlling their health and wellbeing. Despite ongoing argument surrounding the nature of addiction, it is becoming more and more obvious that addiction should be treated more like a disease, and less like a behavioural issue. Of course, in the beginning the action of taking drugs is a choice, but as an individual becomes more and more dependent on the experience and the subsequent feelings associated with that experience, (more often than not) they become addicted. When a person becomes addicted to something, that addiction quite literally plays out like a dependency, in every sense of the word.
Addiction is all-consuming, devastating, and terrifying, and it polarises the individual, making it even more difficult to break out of the habits and the reliance that saw them reach this dark place. More than just the experience itself, addiction manifests and expands over time to become a harrowing experience that takes everything from the individual, piece by piece, over time. Many addictive substances are also illicit, meaning that it is difficult (if not impossible) to get one’s hands on them legally. This is a large part of where the stigma comes from. Because it is illegal in many (again, if not all) cases to obtain these addictive substances, the health risk becomes less prominent in people’s minds, as the behaviour it takes to get a hold of them. And in the case of alcoholism, being drunk often results in an individual behaving irrationally, lashing out, and even being prone to violent outbursts and other less-than-desirable behaviours.
All this information correlates to create the view of addiction as a behavioural problem, rather than a disease. Of course, at first glance it is an understandable approach and viewpoint to have, but the reality is that this stigma is at least partially responsible for the damaging health risks and global increase in addiction. Statistics have shown that addiction rates have been spiking all over the world in recent years. While it is difficult to say exactly why this is, it is almost a virtual certainty that it has at the very least something to do with the fact that the attitude towards addiction is still decidedly toxic. Despite addiction tearing apart people’s health, its prominence as a behavioural issue means that addicted individuals often find themselves feeling alone and unable to ask for help – even if they want that assistance desperately, more than anything else in the world. And so, addiction becomes not just a negative contributor to overall health, but a mental health risk.
Addiction does not discriminate. Addiction can – and does – happen to anyone, anywhere, any time. Once an individual finds themselves going down that road, it becomes more and more of a challenge to right the ship and find their way back to positive overall health and wellness. It is almost never (if ever) an easy process. The idea of a quick recovery after addiction seems crazy, even impossible. And the reality is that while quick recoveries for addicted individuals are not unheard of, the road to revitalised health and wellness is more of an ongoing process than a fast switch. Of course, quick recoveries are common for some health complications, but unfortunately addiction is not one of them. Leading a healthy lifestyle after the recovery process from addiction can sometimes take months, even years. The statistics are terrifying. The truth is harrowing. We must do better. People’s lives literally do depend on it.
Our health is something that we should always be striving to ensure is at its most positive state possible. Sometimes, individuals are incredibly lucky and are gifted with incredibly strong health, and in other circumstances, it is the unfortunate reality that they are not as lucky. One instance where an individual’s health can be taken for granted is when they fall into the scopes of addiction. By nature, addiction is a harrowing experience (to say the least), and it goes without saying that it is difficult for most (if not all) individuals suffering with addiction to break the pattern. The links between addiction and health are complex and devastating. While each individual experiences addiction differently, it can be definitively said that addiction has similar broad impacts on not only those it directly effects, but the loved ones of those people. Now, addiction is finally being treated as a disease and not a behavioural problem, and this is the start of positive steps towards removing the stigma surrounding addiction, and finding viable solutions for those trying to find their way past it.