Things Not to Say to an Addict

addiction stigmaMost addicts could write a book on people’s misconceptions about addiction. Addicts are constantly bombarded by the opinions of people who are uninformed about addiction and offer them harsh judgments, inaccurate assessments and basic information that they have been aware of for years. These statements help reinforce harmful stigmas that go against what mental health and brain chemistry experts have to say about addiction and must be shut down. When you are interacting with an addict, be sure not to say any of the things listed below, as they are offensive and outdated:

  • “Its just a lack of self control.” Addicts have been hearing this opinions for many years, and it can trigger the need to defend themselves. Addiction is far more than a lack of self control. Addiction is rooted in biological, environmental, psychological and behavioral underlying causes. Even when a person was a small child, they were developing some of the brain functions, behaviors and thought patterns that made them addicts in their more mature years. Defeating addiction takes treatment administered by experts, not just a little will power.
  • “Why don’t you just quit?” This question is the epitome of ignorance when it comes to addiction. Obviously if addicts could just quit, addiction would not exist. First of all, people should be aware that a number of substance addictions are dangerous to just quit. When the body becomes dependent on the addictive substance to function, withdrawal symptoms can be very severe, even deadly in some cases. For example, never advise an opiate addict to just quit. You could be risking their health and their life. Secondly, even for addictions that the addict could end without ramification to their health and safety, there are chemical processes happening in the addict’s brain that tell them they need the object of their addiction like they need water to survive. It is a visceral kind of craving that the average person cannot even imagine, and quitting requires a great deal of work on the addict’s part.
  • “Your addiction is your fault.” Spewing venom at an addict for being an addict is nothing but throwing fuel on the fire of their mental unhealthiness. Harsh judgments and cruel stigmas only wound the addict and make them sink further into their addiction. Addiction is a disease and a legitimate disorder, not an excuse to look down on someone.

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