“I wish they would all die!”

That’s what an angry friend once said to me when told I was working with people struggling with drug addiction.  “I just wish they would all die!  They’re a drain on society and don’t offer anything worthwhile. They don’t deserve to live.”

The root of such a statement is a misunderstanding of what addiction is and is not.  Once, addiction was considered a moral failure, a character flaw, or even a sin, and an addicted person was given names such as junkie, druggie, stoner and dope-whore.

We now know that addiction is a complicated chronic, relapsing brain disease that changes how the brain works.  It even alters the brain’s physical structures—such as the prefrontal cortex—where decisions are made.

Whether it be prescription meds, heroin, meth or some other substance, author Fran Smith points out correctly that “addiction remolds neural circuits to assign supreme value to cocaine or heroin or gin, at the expense of other interests such as health, work, family or life itself.”  Those who struggle with addiction it’s like their brain has been hijacked.

Addiction has many causes: genetics, using at an early age, type of drug, trauma, but however one is hijacked, what is needed is not judgment and condemnation but compassion and understanding.   Let’s stop the stigma and send a strong message that when someone is ready there is help available and hope for recovery.  Click here for stories of addiction and recovery http://liftthelabel.org/stories/