A Long Time Coming
We know that alcohol has been around for over 4,000 years, so it’s fair to assume that a segment of the population has been addicted to alcohol for just as long. From a young age, we’re ingrained with an idea of what the typical addict is supposed to be: dishevelled, homeless, old, male, unable to take care of themselves, down and out, and the list goes on and on. The interesting thing is that the person who fits precisely into those categories makes up an exceedingly small percent of the addict population.
The reality is that in any given year, 1 in 5 Canadians, or 20% of the adult population, will experience an addiction issue.
A city with a bad homeless population, such as Vancouver, only had 2,223 homeless residents in 2019. Most addicts are sheltered from many of the consequences by their loved ones, or are simply able to continue to lead a quasi-normal life.
There Are Many Types Of Addictions
- Video Games
- Risky Behaviour
Because many of these addictions are associated with destructive and seemingly immoral behaviour, addiction has been seen as a moral failing from the very start. We’ve had the wrong idea for a very long time - and research and studies in the last 30 years have shown us as much.
In other words, addiction is a disease.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
“Addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and those around him or her.”
Who Would Choose This?
The average person, when facing debilitating consequences in their life, would not continue to engage in the very behaviours that were causing terrible problems. The disease of addiction is treatable but not curable; new routines must be implemented and strictly adhered to.
Just like diabetes or asthma, patients will often go into remission and then sometimes face a number of relapses - only to recalibrate, adjust their treatment protocols, and eventually come to manage the disease. Addiction doesn’t happen to people because they’re bad. In fact, it doesn’t disproportionately impact people based on their immutable characteristics, such as age, race, gender, height or weight. Certain segments of the population suffer from addiction more than others, but nothing guarantees that you either will or won’t be an addict.
The recognition of addiction as a disease makes it all the more unusual that comprehensive addiction treatment isn’t guaranteed for those who seek help from our social healthcare system. Addiction is the only potentially fatal disease in Canada that prompt treatment isn’t rendered when someone asks.
But times are changing.
Next time someone questions whether addiction really is a disease, ask them what in the world could make someone want to lie to their family, steal from their friends, stay up for days, destroy their liver and ruin their life? No sane person wants to do those things - they do them because they’re sick.
Addiction is a disease that makes people sick.
Now that we realize it’s a disease, we’ve started to provide evidence-based treatment to get people healthy.
Play your part and help end the stigma.
Addiction is a disease.
Written for Together We Can by Tristan Elliott, a third-year BBA student who currently works as the Marketing & Communications Coordinator. He is passionate about issues affecting the local community, personal finance, the economy, and Canada as a whole.