Substance Abuse Disorder and the Shame Game

There’s a sickening pattern playing out in how society reacts to and treats its fellow comrades suffering from substance use disorder. Take basketball star Lamar Odom, for example.  Found at a Vegas brothel recently, unconscious, close to death with cocaine in his system and a long track record of drug abuse, Odom has been called loser, scum, worthless drug addict, and worse by social media users. The Internet has been abuzz with hateful, mean-spirited opinions about Odom and the mess he’s gotten himself into.

While addiction is the more common name ascribed to drug use that interferes with a person’s health and lifestyle, the more accurate nomenclature is substance use disorder, a broad medical term used to describe a range of mild to severe drug dependency.

Odom is not alone in this disheartening barrage of misguided hurtful speech. People of every social status, race, and age group suffer from substance abuse disorder and are often shamed and criticized for their condition by others. Sadly, a person is likely to forgo seeking help when doing so would mean facing such judgment. Ironically, many who seek help are often jailed rather than treated.

Serious addiction is a chronic, relapsing medical illness, similar to hypertension or Type 2 diabetes, according to the Treatment Research Institute.  And repetitive unhealthy behaviors ultimately bring about a disease that is very difficult to manage.

Willpower alone cannot beat substance use disorder. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting takes more than a strong will. Drugs change the brain of a user and foster compulsive drug use, which makes simply quitting extremely difficult for even the strong-willed person.

Since substance use disorder is a disease that affects the brain, it is also a mental illness, according to WebMD. In fact, it can significantly alter the brain’s structure and chemistry, leading people to prioritize drug use over all else.

It is not uncommon for a person to relapse and begin abusing drugs again, according to NIDA. A relapse does not equate to failure, but rather it indicates that treatment should be adjusted or that an alternative treatment is needed to help the individual regain control and recover.

It’s important to remember that drug use doesn’t define a person. Recovery is possible but it requires a complete lifestyle change. This can include relationships, family, friends, environment, and employment, according to NIDA.

Can we predict who will get substance abuse disorders? While there are risk factors, such as heredity, environment, and past use, no one can predict an outcome with certainly. People with substance use disorders are twice as likely to have a mood or anxiety disorder compared to the average person.

If you think you or someone close to you might have a problem with drug use, or if you simply have questions you’d like answered, call Clay Behavioral Health Center today at 904-291-5561 for the help you need for a better, drug-free life.

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