Addiction is a Social Disease

Addiction is about coping: plain and simple. People who can feel good (and avoid pain) without substances do so. They connect with friends, go for a jog, or walk in a forest or park. But when people turn to substances to numb the pain or feel good, the result can be addiction.

If you notice that you are turning toward alcohol or drugs to feel good, or that you are drinking for longer or smoking more often than you’d like, see if there are other ways you can get your needs met. Self-care is a core component of recovery. Recognize when you don’t feel good and do something about it (think HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). Find a supportive community–the “rat park” in the video–and avoid negative people and places.

Finally, society stigmatizes an understandable process of coping.  There is a reason people use, just as there is a reason people who are hungry can think of nothing but food. We are biologically driven to try to feel better when we feel bad, and when we believe drugs or alcohol are the only thing that can make us feel better, we use.

Shame keeps people in the cycle of addiction. Remember there are other options and supportive communities available to you. You can find mentors in people who have had similar experiences and guidance from therapists who know how to support your recovery.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-4357

SAMHSA’s Treatment Locator:


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