Part of the stigma that surrounds drug addiction is immorality. Drug addicts make bad decisions. To the outside world, they are decrepit and lost, menaces to society. Selfish and self-centered, drug addicts lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate even their dearest loved ones to get high. Using drugs despite the traumatic effects it has on their own lives or their families is of no consequence to an addict. Addicts are seen as lacking in morality. For if they had any moral bearing, they would quite obviously make better choices.
Or would they?
Studying long term cocaine and methamphetamine addicts compared to non-users, scientists sought to discover the root of immorality in addiction. While examining the brain, scientists posed questions to the subjects which required moral processing. Definitively, the long term stimulant addicts had a more difficult time processing their emotions than the non-users. Each area of the brain involved in emotions, emotional regulation, and decision making reacted much differently in the addicts than the non-users. The results reveal that long term abuse of such drugs physically damages the brain’s ability to process emotional decision making associated with concepts of morality. Consequently, the ability to distinguish right from wrong is impaired.
How does this study translate to current addicts or people with short-term addictions? Abuse of stimulant drugs, or any addictive substances, also impairs cognitive function. Cognition is the ability to interpret and use information to make knowledge. Alcohol abuse, for example, sees the impairment of decision making within just a few hours. Accidents caused by drunk driving is not a matter of morality, but of inhibited decision making. Similarly with stimulant drugs like cocaine and meth, addict’s bad choices are not because they’re bad people. Commonly in recovery it is said that addicts are not bad people learning how to be good, but sick people learning to be well.
Stigmatizing drug addiction on the compass of morality is immoral in itself. Judging a person’s actions, like repeatedly abusing drugs, without examining greater underlying issues, such as mental health and addiction, is superficial. Today’s world, rich in scientific research and spiritual healing, is moving past the black and white dichotomy of addiction recovery.
Refuge Recovery believes that attachment to the suffering of addiction can be healed through our treatment programs. Founded in Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness based practices, and evidence based treatment, our holistic programs empower our clients to heal and live their best possible lives. For more information call (323) 207-0276