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Letter: Understanding Nature of Addiction

To the Editor:

The front page of your July 8 edition referred to a Chicago Tribune story inside the paper with the phrase, “Exercise Helps Ex-Addicts Stay Clean.” Whatever the merits of the story itself, this gets it off to a bad start: There is no such thing as an ex-addict. By using the characterization “ex-addict,” you’re spreading misinformation, which, corrected, could help our culture to address addiction in a meaningful way.

Addiction is chronic, not acute. As with other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma and hypertension, treatment exists, but a cure does not. There are no ex-addicts. Addicts in recovery — yes, by all means. That’s the goal: to make the addict a patient, in order to increase the likelihood of recovery and achieve the societal benefits recovery offers.

New Hampshire and Vermont have among the highest rates of alcohol and other drug use in the U.S. for every age group and every drug studied, according to the National Study on Drug Use and Health (2010). In addition to the tragedy of diminished and lost lives, the costs involved in cleaning up after addiction are staggering. In 2005 they amounted to over $1,500 per American man, woman and child per year, according to the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia’s Shovelling Up II: The Impact of Addiction and Substance Abuse on Federal, State and Local Budgets (2009). Updated research is expected to show that figure increasing to over $2,000 per person per year. Happily, there’s also enormous potential for improving individual lives, families and our culture as a whole, while saving a lot of money, through desegregation of addiction medicine from the rest of the medical field, education of the general public and appropriate action in response to the true nature of addiction and of recovery.

We have a long way to go. The Valley News can help by calling things by their real name. An addict, whether addicted to alcohol or an illegal or controlled drug, will have that condition for life. However, treatment is available, and recovery happens every day.

Chris Weinmann

Consultant, The Second Wind Foundation

White River Junction

Related

Letter: Speaking of Word Choice

Monday, July 29, 2013

To the Editor: In the July 20 Forum, letter writer Chris Weinmann contends that addiction is chronic and cannot be cured. I accept that, but find it curious that the term “recovering addict” is commonly used to refer to an addict who by consensus cannot recover and who at best will forever be recovering. In this context, the word “recovering” …