Terms such as addiction and substance abuse are often used interchangeably, and although it is agreed that we should support individuals who struggle with such issues, there is uncertainty on how we classify the issue.

Much of the controversy first lies in why engaging in a possibly harmful activity is a choice, but addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease. Many studies have pointed that addiction is linked to a combination of biological, environmental and developmental factors. In this light, we have to look at addiction as a complex issue and the ways to help someone struggling with addiction is multifaceted.

Addiction is defined a brain disorder characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite negative health and social consequences. The leading thought is that once an individual has engaged in the use of substances, parts of receptors in their brain become impaired and they can become dependent on the substance.

Understanding addiction as a disease leads one to investigate about addiction treatment. Many wonder if there are different resources at the disposal of those struggling with addiction, why is it so hard for individuals to shake this disease?

A huge contributor to the disconnect is the stigma that surrounds addiction and addiction treatment. These stigmas include the dehumanization and stereotypes of those struggling with addiction. In all the negative lights that the public sees addiction, there are practical things each of us can do to help reduce stigma within the addiction-struggling community.

The first thing we can do as a community is to use first person language, a person struggling with addiction, instead of dehumanizing words such as “junky, or addict”. These terms alienate those struggling with addiction and can invoke a feeling of fear and disconnection. Being an advocate for those struggling to end addiction starts with simple changes to our daily language.

It is not completely understood why individuals struggling with addiction can stop consuming a substance without any formal, professional help and why for some it is a lifelong battle, but anyone who is affected is encouraged to seek help with substance addiction.

Resources such as AA meetings, NA Meetings, or other support groups can create a sense of community with others struggling to lead a healthier lifestyle. The Tennessee REDLINE is available 24/7 with professionals that can help you get connected with programs in your area.

Call 1-800- 889-9789 if you or someone you know is struggling with addiction.