Saturday, August 1, 2009

Treating Addicts Like Human Beings

Addiction stigma is alive and well.

Over at ScienceBlogs, Abel Pharmboy of Terra Sigillata blogged about astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s long struggle with depression and alcoholism. He also noted how he “hadn't really thought about our relative lack of discussion of substance abuse and chemical dependence in the context of scientific training and academia.”

In response, a student left this comment:
“Thank you so much for this post. I am a recovering drug addict and am in the process of applying to graduate programs. I have a stellar GPA, have assisted as an undergraduate TA, and have been engaged in research for over a year. I also have felony and was homeless for 3 years. I don't hide my recovery from people once I know them, but I sometimes, especially at school, am privy to what people think of addicts when they don't know one is sitting next to them. It scares me to think of how to discuss my past if asked at an admissions interview. Or whether it will keep me from someday working at a university. I've seen a fair amount of posts on ScienceBlogs concerning mental health issues and academia, but this is the first I've seen concerning humanizing addiction and reminding us that addiction strikes a certain amount of the population regardless of status, family background or intelligence. I really appreciate this post. Thank you.”

Two quick points: This is how bloggers in the field of health and medicine get their reward. Secondly--and obviously--the addiction stigma lives on-- (See my post, “Would you live next door to a drug addict? ). It is hard to imagine these anxieties stemming from someone with diabetes or sickle cell anemia. These days, we can also add unipolar depression and bipolar illness to the list of disorders that have recently emerged from the closet, so to speak.

If only the same reasoned compassion could be brought to bear on addiction one day.

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