Unfortunately, many people are still not fully aware of the science of substance use disorder.
There is a wide gap between the scientific facts and the public perception of it. Many people see addiction as a social problem that has social solutions. They see addiction as a result of the choices a substance user has made and believe that legal deterrents or punishment should prevent it.
Science, however, teaches us that addiction is in large part a medical problem. Addiction is often out of your control, and professional intervention will increase your chance of success. The failure of policymakers and the public to recognize this stops people from accessing effective treatment.
Removing the Stigma from Addiction
The gap between scientific fact and wider opinion partly comes from the stigma attached to addiction. Addiction is a chronic disease that results from changes in the brain. It has many complex causes which are mostly out of our hands.\
But while some people accept this, many people believe that substance users are ‘bad’ people who have chosen not to control their actions and behavior. They believe that you can quit whenever you want.
The consequences of this point of view can be devastating. Some people think that people suffering from addiction do not deserve treatment and this mindset ultimately prevents them from having any reasonable chance of recovery.
Understanding the nature of addiction has important implications for public health and social policy.
One of these issues is how the criminal justice system treats drug-related crimes. An estimated 65% of people in prison are addicted to some form of drug or alcohol. Another 20% were under the influence of drugs at the time they committed their crime.
Very few prisoners suffering from substance use disorder take part in recovery programs. Research suggests that only 5% of opioid users in prison receive treatment.
A survey of prison medical directors suggests that most do not know about the benefits of using medications in addiction treatment. When prisoners do receive treatment, it usually consists of only behavioral counseling or detoxification.
The lack of access to effective treatment means that reconviction rates remain high. When substance users leave prison, many turn back to crime to sustain their addiction. This perpetuates a circle of crime and conviction that is devastating to the prisoners themselves and their victims and comes at a substantial social cost.
Bias and Experience
Many of the people who work in addiction treatment have very strong opinions about the nature of addiction and how it should be treated. These views may also contradict scientific facts.
Some drug abuse workers are themselves recovering from an addiction. They may have had a successful experience with one treatment method and believe that to be the best or only approach.
In reality, scientific research has shown that there are many effective treatments. Different people respond differently to different approaches, and preventing individuals from taking part in the treatment that best suits them can damage their chances of recovery.
It is crucial to work to close the gap between opinion and science. Doing so will open the door to recovery for many more substance users.
At Cirque Lodge, we pride ourselves on personalizing each client’s treatment experience. We will collaborate with our expert team to develop a bespoke treatment program just for you.
Substance Abuse as a Public Health Problem
Research has shown that substance abuse can have severe consequences for your mental and physical health. But it also affects the health of the wider public.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that drug abuse leads to the spread of “hepatitis, HIV, fetal effects, crime, violence, and disruptions in the family, workplace, and educational environments” and costs the United States billions of dollars every year.
Because addiction is such a complex and pervasive health issue, its prevention requires education, treatment, and research. Scientists are continuing to research these issues extensively, and we are becoming better equipped to tackle addiction every day.