Why We Should Stop Judging Addicts

By Avisha Holly

To the people who say addiction is a choice and a moral failing. I hope we learn to be better.

Here we are in the 21st century, more civilized, rational and educated, yet we still tend to judge those that are different to us. Over the course of human history, the consensus was that people who substance abuse were just worthless and weak people.

For decades now, scientific research has proven that addiction is a brain disease rather than a moral affiliation, and yet prevailing attitudes and stigma towards addicts hasn’t changed much.

A study conducted by researchers at Harvard Medical School found that people’s opinions of addicts are considerably lower than the opinions of the medical ill. This disdain for addicts is because the public at large consider addiction to be a proof of character. Why is this? How can we sit and judge someone who is suffering from a disease?  It is easy to look at an addict and pass judgment. It is easy to sit from a distance and wonder why the addicted person doesn’t simply stop using the substance that has taken away her job, relationship and health.

But this type of thinking is at best misinformed and at worst, discourages those suffering from addiction to come forward for help. Those struggling with addiction and mental health issues often face suspicion, discrimination and rejection. The prospect of recovery becomes even more unlikely when a person must cope with new problems imposed on him or her by society. By us.

I ask you to have deeper empathy. I ask you to speak up when a friend or relative name calls or demeans an addict. I ask you to see beyond the battle that person faces every single day.

When you come across a person suffering from an addiction or mental illness, remember that as a society it should be our job to uplift those around us, to be mindful, to be kind.

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