While there is an element of truth that certain people can suffer from addiction, in the various groups mentioned in the front page of the Feb. 3 newspaper (”Overdose deaths soar 40 percent”), it is not true that “anyone can become addicted.” In fact, the vast majority of people who use alcohol, scripted pain medications, marijuana, etc., never face addiction even if there is occasional misuse by some.

The same is true with many other diseases. Not everyone can develop cancer, diabetes or heart disease. This belief regarding addiction exists because it focuses on the substances and not the actual disease. Using is but a symptom of the underlying disease process. When we treat any disease at its point of origin, then we see great success. Reacting to the symptoms, of which substance use is just one in addiction, gets limited results.

The disease of addiction develops around a number of body and brain genes along with some social and environmental factors and at times even a major trauma.

The vast majority of those with addiction are predisposed to it. They were born with it. The symptoms begin to show long before the first use or drink, sometimes as early as preadolescence.

The treatment of addiction, unfortunately, is fraught with misinformation at times and this may be one of the reasons it is so difficult to treat.

On the subject of stigma, which may be our biggest hurdle to recovery, focusing on the disease and not the person is imperative. Perhaps it would be better to say that untreated addiction is hurting them, their families, friends and community. The key is that it is untreated.

Someday we will turn that corner and stop the old beliefs and language and focus on the real issue: the addiction itself.

Bob Creamer


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