A recent article about programs treating addiction sounds encouraging (“Waterville’s first ‘angels’ set to join fight against drug addiction,” Jan. 13). I particularly liked the emphasis on balance in treatment and just the interest in helping others recover.

However, progress is still lagging and this may be tied in to some of the “old” language still being used. Examples include the word “clean,” which implies that someone who is using is “dirty.” We use that in no other disease process. Being “just one bad choice away” suggests that the person is in control and therefore at fault. Thus the rise in stigma — they feel as if they are to blame, and then comes the guilt and shame.

Many years ago a physician who dedicated his practice to addiction described relapse as “driven by compulsion beyond my mental control.” While we’re on words, “relapse” carries a certain amount of stigma as well. In the medical field the return of symptoms in a disease is usually described as a recurrence. When we finally get over that old language hump we’ll use recurrence instead of relapse in dealing with addiction.

It’s time to focus on the real problem: the addiction itself. We’ve spent energy on the person as the problem by inducing such treatment approaches as moral inventories and suggesting they have addiction because of character defects. We’ve focused on substances as the problem, with a concomitant rise in deaths and misery in all areas of this disease.

The medical community should be directing the treatment process and medication-assisted treatment should be far more available, along with counseling by those willing to focus on addiction as the problem and not the person.

We’ve tried it one way for years with very limited success. It’s time to bring addiction treatment into the 21st century.

Bob Creamer


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