How Is Addiction Viewed in American Culture?

Posted in About Alcohol Abuse

How Is Addiction Viewed in American Culture?

Addiction and the risks associated with substance abuse are often over-simplified

Addiction is a sensitive and often misunderstood disorder in our culture. As is true with many complicated issues, the intricacies of addiction and the risks associated with substance abuse are often over-simplified, avoided or obsessed over. Between pop culture characterizations and anecdotal reports in social media, it can be very difficult to push through the fiction and into the facts about chemical dependence in particular and mental health issues in general.

Addiction Is No Big Deal

“Kids will be kids,” they say. “If you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there.” Dismissive colloquialisms such as these are rampant especially among baby boomers. It’s difficult to find a comedic television show or movie that hasn’t made light of drug or alcohol abuse at some point. Whether being done by frat boys on a college campus or wealthy business people after a day at the office, getting drunk or high is seen as a completely normal or even expected part of life. The consequences of substance abuse are rarely explored with any truthfulness or candor. One result of this flippant approach to alcohol or drug use is that young people increasingly think that it is no big deal. They may understand that heroin addiction is bad, but they don’t understand the incremental steps that land a person there.

Addiction Is Evidence of Poor Moral Character

Another unfortunate misunderstanding about addiction is that it is a result of bad choices, childish behavior or poor moral character. Many people who have not been touched by this kind of mental disorder find it easy to dismiss addicts as victims of their own bad choices. This demotivates people from investing time or resources in effective prevention or treatment initiatives. These people tend to believe that addicts are simply reaping what they have sown. The truth, however, is that addiction is a powerful psychological disorder that is often as connected to family history and genetics as it a consequence of poor choices. A majority of addicts suffer from at least one of the following types of co-occurring emotional disorders:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Self-esteem deficiency
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Process addictions (compulsive behaviors involving sex, eating, cutting, gambling, etc.)
  • Schizophrenia
  • Psychosis

For these addicts, drugs or alcohol are a mostly subconscious attempt to self-medicate. The actual substance abuse or addiction problem, therefore, is the result of a disorder, not the cause of it. Addiction has ruined the lives of many wonderful, honorable, intelligent and compassionate people.

Addiction Is Glamorous, Mysterious or Enigmatic

On the other end of the spectrum are mostly young people who romanticize substance abuse as the enigmatic behavior of deep thinkers, rebels, sensitive types and artists. Some creative types, for instance, believe that getting drunk or high is necessary for their creative process. While it is true that intoxication reduces inhibitions, this kind of substance abuse is merely a crutch for people with emotional issues. The truth is that once an addiction has control of a person, he or she will be slowly consumed by it. Drugs or alcohol, not creative expression or ideas, becomes the driving engine of the addict’s life.

Substance abuse is also far from glamorous. Brain damage, cancer, organ failure, poverty, broken relationships, desperation and criminality are rarely factored into the glamorous mythologizing so many people propagate about addiction. Substance abuse is not a sign of depth or adventurousness, it is life-limiting tragedy.

Addiction Is Incurable

Another common substance abuse myth is that addiction is incurable. Just about everyone knows somebody who has tried to quit drinking or getting high only to fail repeatedly. Ending substance abuse is one of the most challenging things a person can accomplish, but it is not impossible. Millions of people have effectively ended their dependence on drugs or alcohol and have rediscovered the joy and peace of the sober life.

Long-term recovery requires a comprehensive approach to treatment and a lasting commitment to accountability and community-assisted self-control. The most effective treatment programs accomplish this through the following methods:

  • A careful and thorough diagnosis of all underlying or co-occurring psychological issues
  • Individual counseling (various types)
  • Group support
  • Empowering education
  • Coping skill development and practice
  • Family or marriage counseling when appropriate
  • Creative expression exercises and experiences (arts therapy)
  • Strong aftercare program

This kind of fully integrated Dual Diagnosis treatment is available in either outpatient or inpatient formats and a specially trained addiction treatment therapist can help you decide which approach is right for you. Overcoming addiction may be the hardest thing you ever do, but you can do it. We can help.

The Actual Truth about Addiction

Despite cultural views to the contrary, mental health professionals and experienced recovery therapists understand the following truths about addiction:

  • It is often connected to other emotional issues.
  • Even low-level alcohol or drug abuse can be lead to bigger addiction problems.
  • It can have a genetic root that has nothing to do with character or choices.
  • Anyone can be impacted by addiction to prescription medications.
  • Chemical dependence is treatable and recovery is possible.

If you would like more information about addiction and recovery, please call our toll-free helpline right now. Our staff members are standing by 24-hours a day with free, confidential, no-strings-attached answers and access to the most successful recovery programs available. Addiction is a critical issue, but help is available. Don’t let shame or misunderstanding keep you from seeking the help you deserve. Call now.