Before we look at this question, and I give you my somewhat controversial answer on this topic, lets first turn our attention to the rise in drug deaths that have been recently reported in our news.
It was recently revealed that there were 934 drug related deaths in Scotland in 2017, which is the highest ever number recorded. This is an 8% increase compared with 2016 and is more than double the amount of drug related deaths recorded in 2007, which was 455.
So where are we going wrong? Why are we seeing such an increase in drug related deaths? Answering these questions is not within the scope of this article, but I would like to take you back to 2007, which is a significant year for me as it was the beginning of my own personal recovery journey. This was the first time I entered a residential rehab program, down at Teen Challenge in Wales.
This is where I encountered God, which transformed my life, my world view, and would reset the direction of not only my own personal life, but the life of my family and those we now come in to contact with through the work of Street Connect.
I share this because, this will inform you of my view in relation to the question in the title of this article: Is addiction a disease?
In terms of my personal recovery, I come from a Christian perspective, and think that addiction is firstly a sin issue, relating to our separation from God, therefore addiction itself is not a disease. From my own personal experience, I used to think that the drugs themselves were the issue, but when I came off them for the first time in 2007, I soon realised that I was left with myself, and all the underlying issues, which led to my addiction.
For me it was more related to my insecurities as I hit a teenager, finding confidence in alcohol, then drugs. This then became a coping mechanism for me, and eventually the drugs and alcohol became my confidence. I can now thankfully say that through being connected to God, through Christ, I have come to a place where I fully accept myself for who God made me to be, which has been instrumental in helping me live a drug free lifestyle for more than 8 years now.
I know that my route into drugs/alcohol will be completely different than that of many others, as addiction is complex and there is no one route into addiction. It is no respecters of people, with people from all walks of life and backgrounds getting caught up in cycles of addiction in many forms.
People find themselves addicted to not only drugs or alcohol but also gambling, sex, pornography, food, internet and smartphones being one of the latest addictions we now see. I mean, you just need to look around you to see how addicted people are to their phones these days.
Some addictions are more destructive than others, well on the surface anyway, but addiction in any form, has a negative impact on ourselves, our relationships and wider society as a whole.
I also have a number of family members who are in addiction to drugs, and/or ‘drug users’, so the other question is, is it hereditary? Again, I think some people may have more of a predisposition towards addictive behaviours, but I would not consider addiction itself hereditary or a disease, but the surface problem of deeper routed issues.
In order to overcome addiction, we need to get to the root causes of these addictions which are often related to abuse, hurt, pain, anger, insecurities, trauma, neglect and other root causes. This is why we need to be tackling the root causes and not just dealing with the surface issues, if we are going to see people walking free from their addictions and fulfilling their God-given potential.
Before finishing, I would like to extend my thoughts and prayers to be with the friends and families of those who have died through addiction, and also to the loved ones of those who are still caught up in addiction, as well as those currently affected by any addiction themselves.
There is hope, there is an answer, and there is a way out.