As we work with addicts from all walks of life, people are often surprised to find so many others who struggle with addiction, yet look like they “have it all together.” Perhaps one of the most humbling lessons people learn in treatment is that addiction can impact anyone—from the person living in poverty to the person at the peak of their career. No class or status is excluded or protected from the potential of addiction-forming substance abuse. Continue reading to learn how addiction enters treatment wearing any collar.
Breaking the stereotypes
Usually when people first picture someone addicted to drugs, they conjure up an image of someone with obvious physical scars and markings of drug abuse. Maybe you imagine someone with telltale signs in their face and their frame. But the old advertisements and education resources that threaten what you will “look” like on drugs don’t tell the whole story of who an addict can be. Instead, they only show a dramatized version, making it seem as though drug addiction only exists in people for whom it’s physically apparent.
The truth is that addiction can come in any packaging. It could be someone like what we first picture—someone with matted hair, damaged teeth, or scabbed arms. But an addict could just as easily come dressed in a suit and tie, walking into their white-collar job, carefully guarding themselves and their reputation from anyone finding out about their addiction.
In both cases, the addict desperately needs help to break free from their drug dependence. Whether someone can’t hold down a job or thrives as a successful professional, that person doesn’t have the control over their drug use the way they might perceive. People from all neighborhoods and careers go through similar stages of increasing substance abuse, masking or deceit, denial, and wreckage to their health and relationships.
Drugs don’t discriminate
Nearly 21 million people in the U.S. suffer from substance addiction. Addiction doesn’t discriminate on any economic class. Substance abuse can entangle anyone, regardless of how outwardly successful they may look.
One of the ways we see new faces of addiction is through the rise of opioid abuse. A recent study on health insurance enrollment found that at least eight people out of every 1,000 health insurance enrollees have been diagnosed with an addiction to opioids, jumping by 493% from 2010 to 2016.
Many addicts’ stories start from taking prescribed painkillers from an injury or surgery. Once a tolerance and dependence on those painkillers develops, users continue to take more and more pills to achieve the same results. When a prescription runs out, they often look for other means of acquiring painkillers, spending huge amounts of money to feed their addiction. That substance abuse may expand to using heroin—all stemming from a physician-prescribed pain medication.
Examples like these are unfortunately common across all generations and classes. While each case is tragic, this growing trend also opens up conversations about the stigma around addiction and helps us recognize how these situations can happen to anyone.
Relating to others
The most important takeaway is the reality of addiction’s impact on people of all backgrounds. When you come to treatment, you hear stories from people who have been in your shoes and understand what you’re going through. These are people who have felt the same emotions and struggles. They know what it’s like to feel emptiness, loneliness, and shame, and they come to treatment because they can’t do this alone.
When you hear people’s testimonies, you find their similarities outweigh their differences. As an example, read how Mark found comfort in his treatment experience.