Drug and alcohol addiction is a problem that has affected millions of individuals over a significant period of time. The reason why people begin using drugs varies from person to person however, the reason why addicts continue these habits despite their devastating consequences-may actually be surprisingly similar. A significant portion of people believe addiction affects those with poor character who are simply searching for a source of pleasure. It may be possible that those who don’t see addiction as a “disease” are uneducated on the complex nature of addiction itself, or that their beliefs about addiction have been molded by the medias extensive coverage of drug induced deaths such as Anna Nicole Smith. To them, overdose victims have no will power or motivation to stop using drugs or alcohol. Does anyone agree with me in assuming that these people probably haven’t experienced addiction first hand, whether it was in themselves or within someone they love?
HBO’s documentary “Addiction,” did a fantastic job at portraying the complex nature of drug and alcohol addiction and later argued that this phenomenon should be considered disease rather than a individuals lack of morality or character. HBO tells the stories of children, husbands, aunts and co-workers affected by addiction, not of individuals mislabeled as “junkies” by many ill-informed individuals in society. The film explores the addiction problem in society through real life stories and views on treatment and recovery by addiction experts who explain several common themes seen throughout this disorder. Of the millions of people in the world addicted to drugs and alcohol, the similarities in their stories are remarkably similar. Regardless of its severity, an addiction is capable of tearing people apart.
“HBO’s “Addiction” is both clarifying and emotional”
The reason an individual begins using drugs varies slightly from person to person yet we see some common personal problems that may initiate addictions in many people. Do addicts experience peer pressure, boredom, insecurities, depression or a longing or excitement in their life? They more than likely felt at least one of those at the beginning of their addiction. Many people are depressed or feel they have nobody to turn to with their problems and this leads to their first experiments with drug or alcohol use. Addicts who continue using drugs or alcohol for a substantial portion of their lives began abusing these substances during their adolescent years. Once they realize they have a problem they immediately feel ashamed and embarrassed that they cannot stop using and overcome their illness. It is not uncommon for addicts to relapse several times before they experience true sobriety.
This documentary is both clarifying and emotional is because viewers get a firsthand look at the devastating obstacles and situations addicts and their families go through every single day. Addicts don’t show interest in many things around them, they become depressed or moody and throughout their disease end up losing touch with reality. Many addicts can admit they have a problem but are unable to simply stop using drugs or alcohol. Others remain in denial that they have a problem until they personally experience a rock bottom; whether it be having no place to live, having no family to turn to or even worse, experiencing a life threatening event such as an overdose. Addiction is brain disorder leaving individuals unable to control their need for drugs or alcohol ultimately because their brain has changed both structurally and functionally.
The attempt to incarcerate an addict to prevent them continuing their bad habits will not free them from their addiction. Strategies that attempt to use more law enforcement, more jail time and stricter punishments for drug or alcohol habits are not effective in and of themselves. Assuming that someone can recover from a heroin addiction solely because they served a 3 year jail sentence, is not realistic by any means. Do you really think they acquired any healthy or effective new coping skills or strategies while locked up? If they did, it wasn’t many-let’s be real.
Receiving treatment from those who care about your well-being and safety in an encouraging environment should prove more effective than a punishment which emphasizes an addict’s bad behaviors and poor life choices. It is true that jail time may give an addict the final realization that they have reached rock bottom and need to reconsider their current life style, but being in jail also attaches a stigma to all those who end up going there. How is this going to help an addict overcome their devastating addiction? When an addict feels they are just another “criminal” they will only feel more negatively about themselves and this may lead them even further down an ultimate path to destruction.
After viewing this film, those who cannot see how incredibly devastating addiction is and how much of a problem drugs are, should finally come to understanding that something needs to be done in society as a whole to prevent it. I was once one of those people who couldn’t grasp the reason addiction occurred or why an addict couldn’t simply stop doing drugs. Only after experiencing a loved one with an addiction could I even begin to understand this complex and devastating condition. Realizing that your addict could be months, days or even hours away from an overdose is a feeling so terrifying, you eventually feel you have nowhere to turn.
“Believe it or not, the majority of addicts want nothing more than to return to their normal, drug-free lives.”
Addiction can ultimately lead to death and for that reason something needs to be done. Understanding that addiction affects individuals physiologically and not just psychologically, I believe, is a good starting point. This film is eye opening and emotional in exploring our societies addiction problem through real life stories and viewpoints on treatment and recovery by addiction experts. I would highly recommend checking it out!
For more information on the film visit HBO’s “Addiction”