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Drug and Alcohol Advocacy, Education and Policy Organizations

A single mother completes treatment for alcoholism to be a better parent to her children, only to be unable to find an apartment due to a history of substance abuse. A man in his 20s attempts to find work, only to have a job offer withdrawn upon disclosure of past addiction treatment. A nurse is suffering from addiction to opiates, but is afraid to get help for fear of losing her job and being unable to find work in her field due to stiff penalties and RN license restrictions.

These are common problems for those suffering from addiction, as stigma and discrimination hurt former addicts’ opportunities and scare those using into silence. Facing judgment and persecution is often the last straw for many addicts, who may relapse when faced with obstacles to recovery and normal life. Luckily, organizations and individuals are fighting to raise awareness of how addiction stigma affects individuals, and pushing for improved policies to end discrimination against those who wish to seek help or have completed treatment.

*The Stigma of Addiction

Much of the stigma of addiction surrounds the presumption that drug abuse is a moral failing, and that using is an issue of free will. However, current scientific evidence shows that addiction is actually similar to other chronic illnesses. Addiction is a medical issue with both mental and physical manifestations, similar to cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Both cardiovascular disease and addiction have factors in common:

–        Environmental factors

–        Hereditary factors

–        Stress

–        Lifestyle choices

–        Early life experiences

–        Protective factors

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), addiction has similar relapse rates to other chronic illnesses with behavioral and physiological components. Just as patients with diabetes must change their eating habits and take medication, those suffering from addiction must receive treatment and change their behaviors.

American Council for Drug Education (ACDE)

This organization is an offshoot of Phoenix House, a non-profit organization that has drug and alcohol treatment and prevention programs around the US. The ACDE specializes in prevention and education, providing medical professionals, students, parents, and employers with information and programs designed to raise awareness of addiction risk factors and provide easy strategies to talk about substance abuse.

A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing)

In 2000, PATH helped pass proposition 36 in California, mandating treatment instead of incarceration for non-violent drug offenders. PATH’s goals include expanding access to therapeutic treatment, preventing de-funding of proposition 36, raising awareness of overdose risks and gaining federal funding for overdose prevention. The group advocates for compassionate support and treatment for addicts rather than punitive measures alone.

*The Cost of Addiction Discrimination

A study by the NIDA reports that society saves around $7 for every $1 spent on rehabilitation rather than incarceration, but first-time offenders are often given jail time instead of an opportunity for treatment. A recovering addict will pay more for car insurance, life insurance and health insurance, and may have trouble finding insurance at all after either incarceration or addiction treatment. Advocacy groups are pushing for reform in these areas to give those searching for help the best chance at recovery.

Alcohol Justice

An industry watchdog group, Alcohol Justice collects data and works to regulate the alcohol industry. Their goals include restricting advertising and removing products aimed at children and young adults.

Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)

The DPA works to change current harmful drug regulations and enact new laws based in “science, compassion, health and human rights.” Their supporters consider the war on drugs a failure, and they seek more practical methods to deal with the drug problem, such as treatment as an alternative to incarceration.

Do It Now! (DIN)

Aimed at middle school, high school, and college students, this organization publishes honest yet respectful materials with facts about drug and alcohol abuse. Without moralizing or preaching, they provide real information about the consequences of adolescent drug use from an empathetic perspective. Founded in 1968, DIN has a reputation for genuine information and constant updates.

Entertainment Industries Council (EIC)

Founded in 1983 by leaders in the entertainment industry, EIC works to increase accurate portrayals of addiction, mental health issues, and other issues in media and entertainment. The group serves as a connection between the scientific and medical communities and the creative community, fostering education and believability in entertainment, and increasing the benefit and value to the audience.

Faces and Voices of Recovery

Faces and Voices of Recovery advocates for awareness of recovery for families, friends, and those suffering from addiction. Their goals include treatment instead of incarceration and a solid recovery community to meet the needs of families and others affected by addiction.

Legal Action Center

Legal Action Center is the only non-profit law and policy organization that focuses on ending and fighting discrimination of those with HIV/AIDS, former addiction, and criminal records. While they only provide direct legal assistance for those in New York State, they have helpful information and links for other states on their website.

Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC)

The HRC works to reduce and minimize the damage of drug use, whether or not abstinence is the overall goal. Their priority is to minimize the damage that drugs commit in communities without condemning those who use them. The HRC involves addicts and former addicts in the decisions that affect them, such as policies and community treatment organizations.

How Drug Advocacy Helps Society

With the help of people and organizations that are working to end discrimination for recovering addicts, lawmakers and the media will hopefully be more aware of how their portrayals and policies hurt individuals in society. As the public becomes more educated about the disease of addiction, more people struggling with addiction may feel comfortable coming forward  to find treatment.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, get help now. Policies and organizations exist to assist you with treatment and recovery. Call our toll-free helpline to learn more about available treatment options.