"Addiction is a disease and we should treat it like one"

Addictions are a heavy topic. We all have some opinion about it, know someone who struggles with it, or have heard about it on the news (“crack-smoking mayor of Toronto” anyone?). Addiction involves the compulsive use of substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, or behaviours such as gambling, shopping, or sex, which are done compulsively and interfere with daily life.

Depending on who you are and your personal experiences, you may think that addictions are something that happens “to other people” and not those you know. There is a stigma around addictions, just as there is for mental illness – and often the two go hand in hand (CAMH, n.d.). They are treated as flaws or personality issues as opposed to diagnosable, and treatable, mental heath conditions.


This TED talk by Michael Botticelli, a U.S. public official who worked in the Obama administration, describes his journey, the stigma he faced for his job in drug policy, and the ramifications of his struggle with addiction (Boticelli, October 2016). I encourage you to watch the video, even those who feel they understand addictions and substance use disorders. Observe your reactions and thoughts as he speaks and reflect on your own biases or experiences with addictions or those who struggle with it. Only through reflecting on our implicit or explicit biases can we work to overcome them.



Botticelli, M. (October 2016). “Addiction is a disease we should treat it like one”. https://www.ted.com/talks/michael_botticelli_addiction_is_a_disease_we_should_treat_it_like_one/transcript?language=en#t-18640

CAMH. (n.d.). Mental Health Statistics. http://www.camh.ca/en/hospital/about_camh/newsroom/for_reporters/Pages/addictionmentalhealthstatistics.aspx

Image from http://www.viralthread.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/addiction.jpg