Why We Should Treat, Not Blame Addicts Struggling to Get ‘Clean’
Journalist David Sheff’s son Nic began using marijuana and alcohol at the age of 12, then heroine and crystal meth. Sheff was baffled; his son transformed from an intelligent student and athlete into an addict living on the streets. At first he thought Nic was just being a wild teenager who needed some tough love. But after struggling to find Nic treatment — and keep him alive — Sheff realized that his son was dealing with a serious disease, more similar than different from diabetes, hypertension or even cancer.
With his personal experience and more than 10 years of research, Sheff concluded that addiction is a health crisis with a price tag of US$600 billion in combined medical, economic, criminal and social costs every year.
In a follow-up to his memoir “Beautiful Boy,” David Sheff has written a new book, “Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy,” in order to outline a slew of reasons why society and addiction treatments have largely failed to help the 20 million Americans with addictions.
Sheff asserts that the reason that addiction treatments overwhelmingly fail is because of how we view addiction. And he says correcting common misconceptions about the disease can be the first step towards improving the social support and medical treatment systems for those struggling with their addictions.
Below are the top myths about addiction, according to David Sheff.
Myth No. 1: Good kids don’t use drugs, bad kids do.
Myth No. 2: It’s impossible to prevent drug use. Kids who are going to use are going to use.
Myth No. 3: People who get addicted are weak and without morals.
Myth No. 4: Addicts must hit bottom before they can be treated.
Myth No. 5: You don’t treat drug problems with drugs.
Myth No. 6: The only way for addicts to stop using is by going to AA meetings.
Myth No. 7: Marijuana is not addictive. No one’s ever died from marijuana. It’s not a gateway drug. Marijuana shouldn’t be legalized.
Myth No. 8: America’s drug problem is unsolvable.
- We’ve failed at solving America’s drug problem not because it’s impossible to do so, but we’ve been focusing on the wrong things. The main problem is that we’ve treated drug use as a criminal problem and drug users as morally bankrupt.
- There are several developments that make me optimistic that we can lower drug use, treat addicts and potentially solve many of the problems in America caused by addiction:
- There’s a growing understanding and acceptance that addiction is a disease and must be treated like we treat other diseases.
- There are advances in treatment that will dramatically improve the likelihood that addicts will get well. There are also new prevention strategies, early assessment, and brief intervention strategies that work.
- There is progress toward making sure that people who need treatment will be able to find programs that use evidence-based treatment.
- There is a new organization founded called Brian’s Wish To End Addiction
The top myths about addiction above were adapted from content from David Sheff’s new book, “Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy. The views are his own.