If society really cared, we’d invest in mental health resources
uring my first year as a psychology student, I learned about some harmful misconceptions people hold about addiction. For starters, people can become addicted to just about anything, not just drugs and alcohol, as the police officer who visited our elementary school told us. Some people develop an addiction to sugar, others gambling, shopping, or playing video games. And yes, many people do become addicted to drugs. In psychology, this is known as a substance use disorder, and according to the National Institute of Health, it refers to someone’s “inability to control their use of substances like legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or medications.” The keyword that caught my eye was “inability,” since before learning about substance abuse disorder, I often heard people blame and berate people struggling with addiction.
“He chooses to drink his weekends away” or “She should know better than to develop an addiction to cocaine” are common refrains from people who do not understand what makes someone susceptible to developing an addiction or how it impacts the human brain. Far too many people believe that people with a substance abuse disorder are choosing to harm themselves instead of realizing that someone with this disorder has the “inability” to control their use of harmful substances. If society cared about mitigating drug addiction, they wouldn’t criminalize drug use and throw people struggling with substance abuse disorder in cages; they would invest in mental health care services, which, when utilized, are an effective mediation strategy. People with substance abuse disorder need support from family, friends, and their community, and they won’t get any of that behind bars.
To make matters worse, the sympathy shown for people with substance abuse is color-coded. We surely didn’t see the same blame-type language used during the opioid epidemic that disproportionately impacted White people as we did during the crack epidemic, which disproportionately impacted Black people. As children of the 80s, my siblings and I saw reruns of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaigns. They made it sound as if anyone addicted to drugs wanted to be and…