Even in our society today, we constantly face difficulties and extensive moral issues on how to approach the common problem that is drug and alcohol addiction. Do we approach this as a moral issue or a poor life choice? Or do we approach this as a chemical dependency issue? How do we address drug and alcohol addiction? Is it a disease/health crisis or is it a criminal act?
Many Americans have differing opinions on this. There are those who consider strongly that addiction is a health problem, a cruel and gripping mental affliction and spiritual hardship. And then there are those who have quite the opposite perspective. There are those who view drug and alcohol addiction as a criminal act, a poor choice, a moral failing, and a truly terrible judgment call. As one can clearly see, these are two completely opposite perspectives on the same problem.
Stereotyping an addict is a big mistake. When we lot all drug addicts and alcoholics into the same category and basically treat them all like identical criminals, we remove their identity and we allot them all into the same category. This is a mistake because even though drug addicts and alcoholics may share the same habits, they are still totally unique individuals, one-of-a-kind human beings who serve to offer their own unique touch to the world.
A drug addiction habit looks about the same from one addict to the next. Alcoholism looks about the same, addict to addict. However, the individual was an individual before they were an addict. That is the fundamental truth here. A person is still a unique person, addiction or no addiction.
This is why we need to have multiple addiction treatment programs available in the United States. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to addiction treatment because every addict is a different human being and will need a slightly different approach to addiction treatment that is uniquely workable for them.
And this is also why we can’t afford to dehumanize, stereotype, or dehumanize drug addicts and alcoholics. When we do that, we don’t add any value to their lives. If anything, we make their condition worse.
The road out is the road through addiction treatment. When drug and alcohol addiction crops up in a person, the right thing to do is to make sure that they get into a drug and alcohol rehab program. The wrong thing to do is to send them to jail or to dehumanize or stigmatize them in any way.
Anyone who watches the news will likely remember the headline news story of Daniel Chong, a low-level drug offender who was apprehended by the DEA and detained for four days without food, water, or a place to use the bathroom. According to a direct quote from an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
This might be an extreme example, but it is just one of the thousands, maybe millions of examples of dehumanization of drug users. It is time we eliminated this trend and insisted instead on the treatment of drug addicts, not stereotyping of drug addicts.