By: Bethany Winkel
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What the New Drug Czar Has to Say, Part 1
Drug Czar Michael Botticelli has been in office for less than a year, but his drug policies are already starting to show through. He recently talked with the Dallas Morning News editorial board about his views regarding drug crimes and the stigma attached to addiction.
Botticelli, himself a recovered alcoholic, believes firmly that in order to help more people get treatment for addiction, we need to change how our society talks about, views, and treats addicts. Many people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, or who have a loved one struggling with addiction, try to do all they can to keep the addiction a secret. They will make excuses and pull away from others because they don’t want them to find out. This often leads to the person slipping further into their addiction and shutting everyone else out.
If more people would feel comfortable talking about the disease of addiction, however, they would be more likely to seek help. Botticelli explains how even the words people use can be embarrassing to addicts. “There are a whole host of terms we use in addiction that we don’t use for [people with disorders] … you know — junkies, addicts. We even call the results of urine tests dirty and unclean. We don’t do that for any other disease.”
According to Botticelli, the way society views addiction is one of the biggest barriers to treatment. Only about 10% of those that need help actually get the treatment they need. “One of the biggest reasons why people don’t seek care is shame and stigma,” he said. “They really feel embarrassed, even more so than mental health.” Botticelli will be working during his term as drug czar to create awareness about the disease of addiction, and will promote educational and prevention campaigns.
Read the full interview with Botticelli here, and then tell us what you think: how can we do away with the stigma associated with addiction?