Why do some people over-indulge and become addicted to harmful substances like drugs and alcohol? Traditionally, there are two competing explanations:

  1. That it is a moral failing, a lack of willpower, due to weak character, etc.
  2. That addiction is a disease, a physical dependency that anyone can fall prey to.

Yet when we look at addiction through the lens of socialist principles, we see a third option:

  1. People turn to addictive substances to numb the pain they are experiencing, physically, mentally or emotionally. The drug is not the true cause of the problem, nor is the person – the problem is the environment. Fix the environment, and you eliminate the need for substance abuse.

Adjusting Our Perception of Addiction

For the most part, people turn to drugs to escape some sort of pain they are suffering, including:

  • Physical pain
  • Emotional trauma
  • Boredom
  • Discontentment
  • Lack of purpose/meaning in life
  • Trapped in unpleasant or unjust circumstances

In a society where each person has quality healthcare – for physical and psychological ailments – and has meaningful work, strong relationships, and a quality standard of living, these types of suffering are eliminated.

By providing a quality of life where every person feels safe, empowered, and content, the need to escape to addictive substances diminishes drastically.

Socialist Values in Addiction Treatment

In short, the socialist value of creating a high standard of living for all citizens would drastically reduce addiction, and this should inform how we approach addiction treatment.

The best path to long-term addiction recovery involves treating the whole person, not just their addiction, and then putting them in a healthy environment where they can thrive without addictive substances.

An inpatient drug and alcohol treatment program that takes this approach uses four key components to achieve this type of comprehensive addiction recovery:

  1. Detox – Begin by clearing the body of harmful substances, under medical supervision, using natural remedies whenever possible to ease short-term withdrawal symptoms, with the goal of getting the patient off of all substances that alter a person’s functioning away from their natural state.
  2. Physical Healing – Provide a wholesome diet, plenty of sleep, and exercise (at the patient’s ability level) to help the body rebound from the damage done by addiction. A strong physical body is also more mentally and emotionally stable, which is important for the third component…
  3. Emotional Healing – Address the underlying sources of suffering that led to substance abuse, and identify a purpose for staying sober that is deeply meaningful to that person.
  4. Aftercare – After leaving inpatient treatment, patients continue to receive support in building happy, meaningful lives.

During and after inpatient treatment, patients learn how to choose environments, activities, and relationships that support their goals for a new, healthy life.

The Critical Role of Universal Healthcare

Quality healthcare for all can help mitigate physical and mental illness before they become serious enough to drive a person into addiction.

For those who are already suffering, we first need to combat the stigmatization of addicts and instead treat them with compassion, as people who need assistance in alleviating their suffering. Then we must provide them with a treatment program that gives them the means to return to their natural state of being – that of a happy and productive member of society.

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