~ Dr. Colleen L. Barry, PhD, MPP, Associate Professor with the Department Of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
This is Part 1 of a five-part series.
As any medical professional working in a San Diego addiction recovery facility will tell you, the people who enroll in treatment programs are there because they suffer from Substance Abuse Disorder – a recognizable and treatable disease.
A Persistently-Negative Public Attitude
Yet, despite the available science, and in spite of the opinions of medical, psychiatric, and professional substance abuse specialists, there is still a stigma attached to individuals suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder, i.e., addiction.
In a 2013 study conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, it was found that the general public has a significantly worse attitude toward addicts/alcoholics than they do towards people suffering with mental illness.
Furthermore, those attitudes extend to a lack of support for any public or private sector policies that help people dependent upon drugs and alcohol receive assistance in their search for employment, housing, and insurance.
The Medical Science Is Clear
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Substance Abuse Disorder – formerly known as addiction – is a “chronic, relapsing brain DISEASE that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”
The NIDA goes on to explain that addiction is a brain disease because the habitual abuse of drugs and/or alcohol creates long-lasting physical and chemical changes in the structure of the brain, altering how it works. These alterations can cause self-destructive behaviors.
In the 5th Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is the manual used by clinicians which describes analysts symptoms of every mental disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association, now classifies all types of substance dependence and abuse as one illness – Substance Abuse Disorder.
This is a recognized and diagnosable disorder with distinct symptoms –
- Impaired Control over the frequency of consumption and the amount consumed
- Social Impairment, typically evidenced by relationship problems, employment difficulties, and legal entanglements, all specifically caused by drug abuse.
- Risky Use, even in the face of negative consequences or risks, such as arrest, dangerous associations, disease, or overdose.
- Pharmacological criteria, such as tolerance – the need for ever-increasing amounts to achieve the same effect, or withdrawal – unpleasant, sometimes dangerous emotional and physical symptoms that appear when the substance is discontinued.
The most common form of substance abuse – alcoholism – was first declared to be a disease by the American Medical Association back in 1956, and in 1991, that declaration was expanded. Now, alcoholism is listed in the International Classification of Diseases as both a medical and psychiatric condition.
In Part 2, we will discuss just how widespread this lack of understanding about substance abuse disorder really is.
Lasting Recovery is San Diego’s leading outpatient drug and alcohol recovery program, nationally-accredited, and offering a multifaceted treatment schedule that addresses Substance Abuse Disorder on many levels. If you want to step away from the stigma and shame with real answers, contact one of our intake specialists today.