CNN details how the public perception of addiction has been warped. While advertising and other media campaigns have twisted information in an attempt to keep children from using drugs, they have instead created a stigma, making people with addictions feel wrong – like bad people – and unable to seek the help they need.
Often in today’s society, where judgment abounds, we are too quick to deem individuals with addictions as “bad people,” who deserve what they get. It is impossible to know, as an outsider, the hardship taking place deep within another human being in any capacity, so how can we be so quick to judge others for struggles that we cannot possibly comprehend? This is why we must all take the time to understand the psychology of those facing addiction so that we can disband preconceptions and become part of the solution.
The term “brain disease” has entered the public consciousness over the years, doing more harm than good. While some are inclined to think that by the brain’s pleasure centers activating from certain drugs we get a clearer understanding of addiction, we must accept that this is not true. Non-addicts show the same brain activity when taking drugs, so the real question to ask is what causes the addictive habits in some, while not in others?
A critical thing to consider when discussing addiction is that it is not always triggered by drug use. This is evident from the fact that many addicts are able to substitute their cravings for activities like exercise, cleaning, and gambling. This is clearly not the work of some “brain disease.”
It’s easy to see someone as a “junkie,” looking to get their next “fix.” But a closer look at our current understanding of addiction reveals how those faced with this hardship do not enjoy the use of drugs nearly as much as the idea of taking them.
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
How often have you looked forward to a delicious slice of cake, only to regret eating it afterward? The subject of our addiction always looks better on paper than in practice.
How Can We Help?
What can we do to help those afflicted with addiction? Instead of judging, we must encourage these individuals, strive to understand (or at least recognize) what they are going through, and help them overcome their feelings of helplessness. We must be aware that the mind goes beyond the brain, and there is so much more to understand about a person’s emotional and personal history than the information a simple mapping of brain chemistry can yield.
The nature, severity, and driving forces behind an addiction are unique for everyone. What is essential is to cultivate compassion for others. While one person’s dependency may seem foreign, we must remember not to compare one person’s craving for alcohol to ours when we do not drink; instead, compare the individual’s alcohol addiction to your shopping addiction – something you feel you could never live without.