Addiction is rarely discussed or elaborated in the media. There are news of one or two celebrities succumbing to addiction, but generally, the topic is always veiled. Our country sees addiction more as a shameful condition, a severe moral failing. Even in movies, addicts are most often portrayed as wayward, downtrodden people who are in a slump because they chose a life of drugs and depravity over that of hard work, religion, and moral righteousness.
Unfortunately, these only perpetuate and exacerbate the problem of addiction, especially here in our country where statistics show 10% of Filipinos, or about 7 million people, use or are addicted to shabu. The social stigma of addiction, in many ways, is as bad as the widespread drug use itself.
How to Understand Addiction
1. Addiction is a disease. Many people will balk at this controversial model. Some would argue that cancer is a disease, not addiction, which evokes images of people delightedly grouped together in a session. However, once we erase the stereotypes, we can see that the addict is truly suffering from a condition that he has no control over, a condition that eats away not only at his body but at his life. This is a seemingly hopeless condition wherein they cannot, or don’t know how to, stop no matter what they do. Even in something as common as alcohol addiction, sudden stopping or unsupervised withdrawal, can prove fatal.
Although we don’t like the way addicts behave and make decisions, these are only symptoms of the disease of addiction, and not a lack of free will or the result of loose morals. Once we open our minds to this, we can see the addict as a struggling person instead of a bad one.
2. Treatment and Criminalization. Many people who are addicted here in our country are seen more as criminals instead of as people who need treatment. Addiction, once again, is stigmatized when it can be seen as a treatable condition. Putting addicts in prison without treatment can only create more problem as, once they get out of prison they are still ill-equipped to hold down a job and then cycle in and out of prison and life outside hustling for drugs. Often, this cycle can only end in death. This can be avoided through treatment and an attitude of understanding and compassion.
3. Trauma and Addiction. Many, if not most, addicts, come from traumatic backgrounds brought by poverty, broken families, sexual exploitation, child abuse, violence, and many other factors. While studies now show how genetics also plays a big role in predisposing a person to addiction, this predisposition is often triggered by traumas. To stigmatize people who have gone through such dark pasts will not help the problem of addiction and may in fact be utterly counterproductive.
In the end, the counterpart of addiction is not sobriety, but connection (with family, with community, and with society) and most importantly, HOPE. Hope that they can have worthwhile, productive, healthy, and happy lives.
Take that step today.
We at Bridges of Hope are here to help you if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction and is afraid to come out but is needing treatment or guidance. We assure you of complete confidentiality. Comment anonymously below for questions, or