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The term “addict” means to say yes. By calling someone an addict and stigmatizing them, the public does them more harm than good. The online course SOWK 2020 focuses on key texts that truly elaborate on how addiction and substance abuse occurs, stereotypes, why people become dependent on drugs, and how best to address dependence.

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1. It’s Not ‘Why the Addiction’, But Rather ‘Why the Pain’?

Many people view substance abuse as a choice but for most addictive substances, that’s not the case. For all people who abuse and become dependent on a substance, they do not choose using a substance, they are biologically and emotionally driven to use it again and again. When people become dependent on a substance, we should ask, “Why the pain”, instead of “Why the addiction”. There are a plethora of reasons explaining why people abuse substances and that includes biology, psychology, familial relationships, early childhood development, culture,  and social influences.

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2. What’s the Basis for Addiction?

There are many reasons explaining why people abuse substances and they are very similar to why people use a substance in the first place. The age-old question of is it biology or the environment is controversial but the answer is leaning more towards the environment: how a child was raised, the culture they belong to, society, and other personal relationships. But that’s not to discount the biological basis of behaviour, as there is evidence that biology affects behaviour in a very distinct way and is valid in explaining substance abuse and dependence.  So is it nature or nurture? Well…it’s both.

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3. Early Childhood Development

When a child is brought into this world, they know nothing but what’s taught to them. Infants are very perceptive and can pick up on their mother or father’s stress before they can even have a memory. They learn to have higher stress levels, anxiety and other psychological issues that may later be a contributor to them abusing a substance.

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4. Stereotypes Against Indigenous Peoples

It’s unfortunate but there is a over-representation of Indigenous people in the media regarding substance abuse. People who belong to the Indigenous community have a unique subset of issues regarding substance dependence and they do not respond the same to traditional treatment and recovery methods that non-indigenous people respond to. There is a lack of understanding by the public about Indigenous people as they are heavily stigmatized as being the drunken Indian or lazy people. This is a major injustice.

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5. How Should We Address Dependence?

The best way to address dependence is to adopt an understanding, compassionate, and multi-faceted perspective. There are so many reasons that people begin using a substance, and then continue to use that substance, so it only makes sense that a user’s issues be addressed in multiple ways. Doctors, nurses, governments, and the public should at least try to keep this in mind in order to better address the current issue of substance abuse and dependence in today’s society.

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The term “addict” contributes to the stigma of addiction and should really be replaced by substance dependence. SOWK 2020 is a great online course that focuses on how to better address substance abusers, the causes of dependence, and the various issues regarding stereotypes and stigmatism. This course definitely changes your view of substance dependence and why people use a substance in the first place.

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Bella Tamburello

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