When You're "Being Treated Like a Drug Addict"

Drugs, alcohol, depression and addictions
Are you being treated like an addict?. Alina555 / Getty Images

I was recently involved in an online discussion about issues in various healthcare fields, leading one contributor to state that people who are prescribed pain medications have to cope with everyone treating them "like drug addicts." It got me thinking, what exactly is "being treated like a drug addict?"

Here are the implications of this comment, as I see them:

  • If a drug is prescribed, the person taking the drug is not an "addict"
  • People who take drugs that are not prescribed, and become addicted to them, are "addicts"
  • People whose drugs are prescribed deserve better treatment than people who take drugs that are not prescribed to them
  • People who are in the "drug addict" category are somehow at fault for what they are doing
  • People who take prescribed drugs are not responsible for their drug use
  • People who are in the "drug addict" category are treated badly by "everyone."

Bearing in mind I was thinking of these implications, I pointed out that drug addicts get "treated like drug addicts" too! I'm sure with the best of intentions, the contributor commented: "... I'm sure they all get treated like criminals, even when they've done nothing wrong. It's sad that people see any drug use as
abuse, and any addiction as weakness or criminal activity."

I get the sense that somehow my point was missed. Many people take drugs. Many people are addicted to drugs, whether prescribed or not.

Many people are addicted to other things. Many people, whether addicted or not, commit crimes.

None of these groupings, in and of themselves, provide any justification for better or worse treatment by the health care system or by anyone else. And our treatment of people with addictions should not be based on any perceived notions of right or wrong, excusable and inexcusable.

It's about time that "being treated like a drug addict" meant being treated with caring, compassion, and the exceptional patience that is needed to support someone with an addiction in finding their own path to healthy living -- whatever that means.