as we said in the nineties: i’m not an addict, it’s cool, i feel alive

You know where you get all excited about a subject that you didn’t really think much about before? Well, that’s me. I just finished the series and supplementary materials for HBO’s “Addiction” – and I have to say I have new respect for the subject. If you or anyone you know use drugs or alcohol, this is a must-see. If you plan to have children (or already do) this is a must-see. If you’ve ever felt bad or “iffy” about any of your drinking or drugging or whatever – this is a must-see. And P.S. – whether you are aware of this yet or not – addiction affects us all, even if you yourself are clean.

Some of the things I learned:

1. Addiction is a disease. No really. I was very skeptical of this concept before; I’m not now. Think it’s a “moral failing” or just trashy behavior? You are incorrect. Or I’m sorry, do you think you know more than leading experts who have PhDs, years of experience in the field, and who have thoroughly examined and studied parts of the brain and body with instruments you didn’t know existed? I should say, many leading professionals who all agree: yes, it’s a disease. It’s a fricken disease. Sorry to inconvenience those of you who would prefer to avoid empathy for addicts.

The proposed mechanism of the disease as relayed by the experts in this film is more than I care to go into – however, it was fascinating and explained a lot I’d previously not understood.

2. Like any disease, the patient is ultimately responsible to manage it. This condition rarely if ever clears up on it’s own, especially if you are still using after the age of 25 or so. Odds are difficult and can seem insurmountable; this, coupled with the heavy stigma, accounts for a lot of denial around recognizing the problem(s) – ask me how I know this!

3. Addiction is still being studied and whatever you grew up thinking about it, you are likely operating on incorrect information and bias. Progress is being made in the field understanding the mechanism of addiction, progress is being made in finding effective treatments and medications, progress is being made in realizing how addiction interacts with other mental, physical, and psychological factors (like depression, ADHD, anxiety issues, genetics, etc), and progress is being made slowly in getting insurance companies to cover treatments.

4. Despite the anger and lack of empathy towards addicts, many addicts live out their abuse without really affecting others in obvious, catastrophic ways. So if you have a problem and are refusing to deal with it, hey, good news – you’ll LIKELY be allowed to live out your life that way. I mean after all, if you’re like most addicts you may not drink and drive (and get caught!) or rob a convenience store and thereby not attract a big, potentially humiliating spotlight on your problem. So, good luck with that.

5. I am truly, truly impressed with the heart, talent, and brains of the professionals who are working in this field for the betterment of us all.

If nothing else this is simply a fascinating (and yes, at times, very distressing) program. I got my copy from the local library. It’s also available through Netflix.

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