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Everything You Think You Know About Addiction is Wrong


By Dr. Louis V. Haynes

I really like this Ted Talk quite a bit. I have difficulty watching shows like Intervention, specifically due to what this speaker references as the "taking away of connection." Disconnection, in a lot of ways, is the root of a lot of our psychosocial and emotional problems. It is our intimate social connections that drive purpose and meaning in our lives as well as our happiness and fulfillment. 

In my own clinical work as a therapist, virtually all the clients that I have worked with who have struggled with addiction, have also struggled with feelings of worthlessness, shame, and disconnection. The path of recovery from addiction has always involved a self-discovery of sorts, in which individuals learn how to practice compassion towards themselves as well as find new hope and purpose in their lives.

Aside from altering our approach to ourselves and loved ones in responding to addiction (more compassion, not less), this video has considerable sociopolitical implications for social justice and public health. The fear of incarceration is not a deterrent nor rehabilitative for addiction. The "war on drugs" is misguided at best and means of socioeconomic oppression at its worst. Karl Marx, the father of communism, once said that "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." He argued that religion encouraged complacency of those subjected to unfair economics and income inequality. In modern day society, we have actual opium that encourages such complacency, with drug overdoses being the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.[2] And the opioid epidemic is most pronounced among low-income communities, particularly in the southern states (https://www.ems1.com/opioids/articles/243092048-8-U-S-regions-hit-hardest-by-the-opioid-epidemic/

Individually, we need to work towards building connection, purpose, and meaning in our own lives and with our loved ones who struggle with addiction. Globally, we need public policy that treats addiction not as a moral deficit and worthy of punishment, but rather a public health issue; informed by science and driven by compassion. What do you think?

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/05/upshot/opioid-epidemic-drug-overdose-deaths-are-rising-faster-than-ever.html?_r=0


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