Can Addiction Be Compared to a Disease?

We’ve all heard the different tales of addiction, about how drugs and alcohol can affect us and change our minds, making us dependent on them. Addiction is usually treated as Public Service Announcements (PSA), highlighting how wrong it is to rely on drugs or alcohol and essentially warning the audience that if they ever start on drugs or binge drinking, you’re sure to end up like those addicts who can’t even lead a normal life anymore. In other words, addicts are shamed but what if addiction is compared to other medical diseases?

First Call, an alcohol and drug prevention recovery organisation in Kansas City has released a couple of ads to illustrate just that. As part of the #stoptheshame campaign, the highlight of these ads is showing how the world would be if people treated Cancer and Parkinson’s patients (diseases that also affect our bodies and brains) the same way that they treat addicts.

The results are, as you can guess, pretty dark and severe, yet realistic. Everyone knows that diseases, such as cancer, can take a toll not just on the individuals suffering from it physically but also on their family emotionally and financially. The main message from these ads is that  the emotional and psychological toll these cancer patients and their families go through is similar to addicts who have reached a point where it is difficult for them to fight against the source of their addiction due to how much it messes them up.

But surely we can’t compare those two right? After all, a cancer patient has no choice on whether they get the disease but addicts made the choice to start taking drugs or drinking too much alcohol. But things aren’t so cut and dry.

While it’s true that the responsibility falls on people whether they choose to consume the drugs or alcohol (though sometimes, such as the case of relying on medication, it’s not), but the effects that drugs and alcohol addiction have on a person are not that different from those who suffer from cancer or Parkinson’s.

In fact, research shows that addiction to something can be passed (and therefore inherited) genetically and, similar to deteriorating conditions, can recur or maybe even be cured.

None of that is common knowledge though, which has led people with addiction problems to hide in shame of what others might think, afraid of being judged or treated like a charity case because of their situation.

That’s what First Call aims to do: it wants to show people the effect that we have on someone who lives with addiction and how we should change the way we think and treat them. Just like how you would show support and care to a person with a sickness that they can’t control.

We should also extend that same hand to addicts, especially if they genuinely want to get better. It’s not just out of good deed either – the people behind these ads have experienced dealing with addicts, and some have been addicts themselves.

All of this shows us that, just as we’re leaning more towards accepting people from all body types, genders and sexuality we should also allow those who have made a few wrong choices in their lives; because if we don’t, then what hope do they have?

For more information about First Call, you can go to their website for #stoptheshame as well as check out their Facebook page. We hope that with more time and knowledge people will start to change their outlook on this subject and make things better for everyone.


Photo Credits: Stop the Shame

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