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Addressing the Addiction Stigma

Posted on December 5, 2011

Joe Frascella talks about the ongoing stigma of drug addiction.


There's absolutely still the stigma attached to addiction for a lot of people. But I think what people should realize, that everyone has the capacity. We have this brain reward circuitry that allows any one of us to become addicted.

And so, for whatever reasons, you could start using drugs, and there are many reasons that people take drugs. When they become addicted, they lose control. And we all have the biology. So, no one of us is really completely immune to the effects of drugs.

It's not only drugs of abuse, right? You know, some of us have difficulty with food. Some of us have difficulty with gambling, the Internet. Lots of very reinforcing stimuli in our worlds today that we can become pretty infatuated with and addicted to. So, I think we have to understand that we have to move beyond the stigma and understand that it is a very biological change in the brain, and it's voluntary behaviors that become totally involuntary and out of our control. And it's treatable. I mean, addiction is treatable. So, there is hope.

I think our efforts in basic and clinical research have shown us that addiction isn't an issue dealing with bad people doing bad things. It really is a brain, a biobehavioral, brain and behavioral change that we all are susceptible to and, you know, I have seen the move from the stigma to a more disease-oriented view of it.

And I think that's the way we should go, because it isn't bad people doing bad things; it's people who become addicted to a certain drug, and it becomes very difficult. But again, treatment is... we have some treatments out there that are very effective, and people can break that cycle of addiction.

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Excerpted from an interview with the researcher conducted at the 2011 NHSN Conference held in Miami, FL.


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