Addiction can happen to anyone. An addict can be your next-door neighbor, your sister or your best friend. It doesn’t discriminate against who becomes addicted and yet many people seem to look at those with addiction as being damaged WITHOUT understanding that circumstances, experiences and often limited resources that can have a huge impact on an individual’s background with substance abuse.

Prejudging addiction only worsens a person’s situation and if there was more understanding about what’s behind each person’s personal circumstances, then more addicts might seek the help they so desperately need.

Trauma often root of addiction

Recently we treated a fentanyl user who was injecting several times a day to cope with her severe PTSD. The trauma endured by this poor girl at an early age was reflective in her extreme drug use and dependency on the fentanyl which masked A LOT of the pain she’d been through. Digging deeper and getting to know her at an individual level allowed us to put into perspective the depth of understanding needed to aid her in her process of recovery.

It’s easy to judge or label someone ┬ábut considering that 1 in 5 people will have a substance abuse issue during their lifetime, the chances that it’s someone close to you is fairly high. Quite often that stigma can be the hardest part felt by an addict. It surrounds all aspects of their lives involving finding a place to live, getting a job or maintaining valuable relationships.

How to help

So, what can you do to help open up the dialogue about addiction and substance abuse? The Here To Help website suggests these small ways that make such a big difference:

  1. Tell your own personal substance abuse story or help others tell theirs.
  2. Think about the words, people-centered language like “alcoholic” or “heroin addict.” Instead use “a person living with substance abuse issues.”
  3. Be aware of how you support and treat people around you who are living with a substance abuse issue.
  4. Speak up when you see discrimination that unfairly excludes people with addiction issues.
  5. Volunteer with substance abuse organizations!

Being educated and understanding the depth of addiction is so important for the individuals experiencing substance abuse issues. Having worked with many individuals, hearing their stories sheds a bright light on how circumstances can deeply shape an addiction and we can put a face to each person living with substance abuse issues.