Earlier this month, the United States Surgeon General issued a report declaring substance use disorders, like addiction, the “most pressing public health crises of our time.” The report called the country to action to both help those struggling with the chronic illness of addiction and change how addiction in the U.S. is perceived as a “criminal justice problem” rather than the public health problem that it is.
Fordham University Center for Ethics Education HIV and Drug Abuse Prevention Research Ethics Training Institute (RETI) Fellow Dr. Erin Bonar, an assistant professor and researcher at the University of Michigan, recently addressed addiction in a panel along with the U.S. Surgeon General on NPR titled, “How To Spot — And Treat — Addiction In Your Family.”
“Many people still believe that addition is a moral failing or a sign of weakness, but decades of research as summarized in the surgeon general’s report support the notion that this is medical condition brought about by a number of factors, including genetics and environmental influences,” Bonar explained.
Addiction “requires ongoing management” and family members and other individuals helping with treatment must approach addicts with “concern and compassion, not confrontation,” she said. In addition to the illness itself, individuals addicted to substances face emotions such as shame accompanied by worries of stigmatization from their families and communities. Interventions vary depending on the type of drug and level of addiction, but Bonar added that being “open and supportive” typically result in successful interventions as addicts will be more likely to express feelings about their addiction and associated issues.
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