LETTER: Don’t assume stereotypes about drug addiciton

A partial excerpt from the letter “Lacking willingness to work or give up drugs” informs: “There is no question that more needs to be done . . .”. I agree. And while I don’t remotely pretend to understand addiction, I have tried to learn more.

Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitz, and The Biology of Desire: Why addiction is not a disease, by Marc Lewis, PhD, were particularly helpful. Ms. Szalavitz, a former cocaine and heroin addict herself, offers a unique insight into addiction. She is able break down some of the stereotypes, by informing us that “Giftedness and high IQ, for instance, are linked with higher rates of illegal drug use than having average intelligence.”

And Marc Lewis provides a concise description of the link between Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) and addiction:

“These included physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism in the immediate family, and chronic parental depression . . . The results are straightforward: the higher the ACE score, the more likely a person was to end up an alcoholic, drug user, food addict, or smoker (among other things). . .”

And although Ms. Szalavitz’ own story does not follow the same pattern, she talks about those who have experienced (ACEs).

Writing about “crack-addicted mothers” she says: “Their childhoods were a litany of sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, death, violence, disease, poverty, bullying and just loss after loss after loss.”

Both writers recognize the link between what happens to a person and how they may react. Perhaps the most graphic examples provided by Ms. Szalavitz are the studies that show that 88 per cent of the soldiers who had become heroin addicts while serving in Vietnam gave up their addiction on returning home.

I believe there are several lessons to be learned. For me the first is that neither society — nor those addicted to substances or actions — benefit from our assuming stereotypes. The second is that “There is no question that more needs to be done . . .”

— Regina Dalton, Abbotsford