Why Compassion Over Judgment is Needed in Addiction Recovery

Woman devastated and crying


Perspective is everything, and when it comes to addiction recovery, many people view those with addiction as individuals who have a “lack of willpower” or people who “don’t care” about anyone but themselves. The harm behind this perspective is that addiction is a disease – substantial evidence supports this, and the brain disease model of addiction is highly supported by both the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Drugs and alcohol have been proven to affect critical brain structures leading to loss of control, compulsive drug taking, inflexible behavior, negative emotional states and more. How does judgment fit into this?

When individuals with addiction are judged, they are not provided an opportunity to overcome their obstacles. They are shunned, ostracized, and disregarded as valuable members of society. Many people with addiction are fully capable individuals with loving families and friends, productive careers, and lives that were once filled with meaningful activities that they enjoyed. Addiction is often caused by self-medication, meaning that some people refer to drugs and/or alcohol to help them cope with the inner turmoil they experience. As an unhealthy coping mechanism, temporary substance use can turn into addiction over time, taking away bits and pieces of life that were once very enriching for that person.

A study conducted by researchers from North Carolina emphasized the strength that judgment can have, even carrying into the healthcare setting. Healthcare providers who hold criticism for those with addiction are prone to exacerbate avoidance of seeking help by people who need it while also potentially worsening one’s substance abuse problem because they feel they are not regarded anywhere.

Many people with addiction have faced traumatic events that have left them without hope or regard for themselves. In his award-winning book titled, “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction”, Dr. Gabor Maté explained the role that early childhood can have on those with addiction. He stated,

We know that the majority of chronically hardcore substance-dependent adults lived, as infants and children, under conditions of severe adversity…Their predisposition to addiction was programmed in their early years. Their brains never had a chance.”

Adolescent substance use impairs the development of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for decision making, impulse control, and other related functions. Even in adults whose use began later on in life, addiction likely began to replace much-needed emotional support. Why should society further emphasize feelings of guilt, shame, hatred, anger, and fear – the very feelings that propelled many individuals to lean towards substance use in the first place?

Simple Recovery is a world-renowned, California state-licensed substance abuse recovery center. We offer dual diagnosis treatment, so if you are experiencing both substance abuse and symptoms of a mental disorder, call us today at 888-743-0490 so that we can work with you to restore your happiness, health, and well-being. You do not have to continue living this way; there are many people here ready to help you.