Shaw: Drug addicts should receive same support, respect as Lovato



Demi Lovato performs at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards on Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. (Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

We know Demi Lovato as the strong, admirable celebrity who is respectfully open about her struggles with drug addiction. On July 24, Lovato was brought to the hospital after an apparent drug overdose, according to many major news organizations. When news of this hit social media, Lovato wasn’t met with disgust, disdain, or ugly stereotyping. She was met with hope, support, and faith that she will get better and overcome her addiction once again. While all that support is great, it does not happen too often to those we know in our own lives who struggle with addiction every day, just like Lovato. Support doesn’t even happen to all other celebrities.

When Lil Peep died of a drug overdose, he did not get the same volume of respect as Lovato. Eminem is just as transparent about his drug addiction, and he didn’t get the same support and faith Lovato did when he overdosed. Granted, these other celebrities have different personalities and attitudes. But, shouldn’t they should be treated with the same respect as Lovato during times in their lives when they hit rock bottom and need support to overcome unrelenting obstacles such as drug addiction?

Lovato was addicted to heroin and is reported by law enforcement to have overdosed on an opiod, according to Variety. There are people in all communities addicted to heroin and other drugs. However, instead of helping them fight their addiction by providing support and giving them respect, we shame them for their addiction and call them junkies.

Lovato’s alleged OD has brought to light the double standard people have on those who relapse. Countless people in our neighborhoods are fighting to get clean and relapse. Yet, people treat them like dirt. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to … Brain changes that occur over time with drug use challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. This is why drug addiction is also a relapsing disease.”

It is clear drug addiction is a medical disease, according to the American Medical Association. What isn’t clear is why we don’t treat their addiction as an actual disease. Or why we don’t treat people equally who are struggling with drug addiction.

We blame those who abuse drugs for not having strong enough willpower, but this is wrong. Addicts can’t choose to quit drugs and be done with them. Drug use has literally changed their brains and their mental health. Society ends up hating the addict instead of the addiction. The question is: Why do people just like Lovato, who struggle with drug addiction, receive different treatment by society? Those “junkies” in our neighborhood are going through the same struggles Lovato does. Why does society hate them for it?

The double standard on drug abuse needs to change, and people must be fair and supportive of those struggling with drug addiction and mental illness. Without our support and the breakdown of negative stigmas and stereotypes surrounding them, addicts will never get better. People’s drug addiction doesn’t define them. It’s only something they have and cannot control. So don’t hate them for it, help them.

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