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Understanding Addiction: More Than Just Drugs, It's a Call for Compassionate Conversations

Updated: Dec 1, 2023

Note: This is the first article in a two-part series on understanding addiction. This part focuses on the complexities and societal implications of substance abuse.

Introduction: A Global Conversation We Need to Have

Last Sunday evening was unlike any other. I found myself engrossed in an eye-opening yet disturbing conversation with my son and nephew about substance abuse. This topic is far from straightforward. It lurks in the shadows, obscured by taboo and heavy with stigma. And yet, it is a subject that urgently needs to be brought into the light.

I share this personal experience because the time has come to shatter the silence and dismantle the barriers surrounding this issue. The reality is that substance abuse touches us all in some way. Whether you are directly involved as a user, or connected through a son, daughter, spouse, sibling, friend, or co-worker, the effects are far-reaching and often devastating.

So, let us set aside our judgments and preconceptions as we explore this complex and pressing issue together. I invite you to join me in this critical conversation that affects us all—because silence is no longer an option.

The Five W’s: A Puzzle to Many

The five W's of substance abuse—why, what, when, where, and who—are essential to understanding this complex issue. Yet, for many of us, caretakers and parents included, these W's can feel like a confusing maze. Caretakers who fumble through the maze of addiction without understanding the five W's are at risk of making mistakes that can further harm their loved ones.

Addiction is not simply bad behaviour or about bad choices or lack of willpower. It is a complicated issue with many contributing factors.

  • Why do people abuse substances? Ah, the million-dollar question. Experts have been scratching their heads over this for years. Reasons could range from dealing with emotions like stress or depression, wanting to escape reality, to even fitting in with a crowd or enhancing work performance.

  • What exactly is substance abuse? Well, it's when someone engages in a harmful relationship with mood-changing substances like alcohol or illegal drugs. It doesn't just affect the person involved; it sends shockwaves through families and entire communities.

  • When does it all start?Substance abuse can kick off at any age, but it's especially common among young folks. Adolescence and early adulthood are times of exploration, and unfortunately, this can include experimenting with substances.

  • Where does it happen? Honestly, it can be anywhere—from clubs and bars to schools and even the home. The setting can often either discourage or encourage someone to engage in substance abuse.

  • Who falls into the trap? Really, it could be anyone, no matter your background. But some people are at higher risk, like those with mental health issues, a history of trauma, or those living under the poverty line.

Real Stories, Real Lives

To add some real-world context to our discussion, let us consider some case studies shared by individuals:

  1. The Teen under Peer Pressure: "I was 15 when I first tried marijuana. It was at a party, my friends were all doing it, and I felt like I had to try. I loved how it made me feel. What I did not realize was that it was the beginning of my addiction."

  2. The Neighbourhood Influence: "Growing up, drugs were just part of the landscape. I saw friends and family struggle and knew I didn't want that for myself, but avoiding it was easier said than done."

  3. The Road to Recovery: "I battled with substance abuse for years, lost my job, my home, my family. But I got help and am in recovery now. If I can turn it around, others can too."

  4. Inherited Habits: "I saw my parents smoke growing up. I thought it was normal. Started with cigarettes, moved on to marijuana, and then to the hard stuff."

  5. The Shocking Moment: "Visiting friends, the first thing I smelled was weed. Then I found their 3-year-old smoking it. His 7-year-old brother had lit it for him because he had seen his older siblings do it and thought it was cool."

These stories remind us that substance abuse is a complex issue that knows no boundaries. It is time for us to dig deep, get educated, and join the fight against it.

Shame and Secrecy: The Hidden World of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse often exists under a "Veil of Shame," hindering people from seeking the assistance they need. This veil is constructed from a blend of societal stigmas, cultural norms, misinformation, lack of support, and self-imposed guilt. Together, these elements can perpetuate the cycle of abuse and make it difficult for individuals to seek treatment and recovery.

The issue is often misunderstood or ignored for various reasons. One prevalent misconception is viewing substance abuse as a moral failing rather than a health condition. This perspective contributes to the stigmatisation and discrimination of those struggling with substance abuse, making it challenging for them to seek help and support. This stigmatisation can also result in negative coping mechanisms like increased substance use and self-harm, and it hampers public discourse around this complex issue.

Here are some steps that can help dismantle the veil of shame surrounding substance abuse:

  • Educate the public about substance abuse and the associated risks.

  • Reduce the stigma linked to substance abuse.

  • Make treatment and support services more accessible and affordable.

  • Address underlying causes of substance abuse, including poverty and mental health issues.

By implementing these steps, we can work towards a society where individuals struggling with substance abuse can comfortably seek help. This, in turn, will enable them to receive the treatment and support they require for recovery.

The Silence That Amplifies the Issue

Alongside shame, a deep-rooted silence often engulfs the issue of substance abuse within families, partly because of societal perceptions that deem it a taboo topic best kept behind closed doors. Many parents and caretakers view this as a blemish on the family's reputation, treating it like a hidden family secret. This culture of silence serves to perpetuate the problem, making the path to recovery increasingly challenging for those affected.

Various factors may prompt families to keep substance abuse a secret. These can range from shame and embarrassment about a loved one's struggles, to fear of social judgement, or simply a lack of understanding about how to tackle the issue effectively.

Regardless of the underlying reasons, maintaining such secrecy is harmful to everyone involved. It prevents individuals from accessing the treatment they desperately need and leads to a damaging cycle of shame, isolation, and stigmatisation. These are not secrets we should be keeping. In matters as serious as this, transparency and open dialogue are essential for addressing the issue constructively.

Breaking the Silence on Substance Abuse in Families

It is important to break the silence surrounding substance abuse in families. By talking about the problem openly and honestly, we can help to reduce stigma and make it easier for people to get the help they need.

Here are some tips for breaking the silence on substance abuse in families:

  • Educate yourself about substance abuse. The more you know about the problem, the better equipped you will be to talk about it with your loved ones.

  • Talk to your loved one about their concerns. Let them know that you are there for them and that you want to help.

  • Encourage your loved one to seek treatment. There are a number of effective treatments available for substance abuse.

  • Be supportive and patient. Recovery is a journey, and it takes time.

By breaking the silence on substance abuse in families, we can help to create a more supportive and understanding environment for those who are struggling.

Concluding Reflections: The Urgency of Understanding

Substance abuse is a complex issue that affects us all, whether directly or indirectly. As we have explored in this first part of the series, it is not easy to understand why people engage in substance abuse. The societal stigmas that often accompany it can make it even harder to talk about. But it is crucial that we start having compassionate conversations about this issue, because it is the first step to a healthier society. In the next part of this series, we will dive deeper into the long-lasting effects of substance abuse and the transformative journey towards recovery.

Until then, let us reflect, act, and transform.

Join the Conversation!

🌸 Share Your Experience: Have you or your loved ones faced challenges with substance abuse? Your story could empower others. 🌱 Take Steps for Awareness: What actions might you take today to spread awareness about substance abuse in your community? 💡 Fuel the Discussion: Do you agree that substance abuse is often misunderstood? How can we change this perception? 👥 Build Community: Share coping strategies that have proved effective for you or your loved ones in combating substance abuse. Be Respectful: This is a sensitive topic. Maintain a tone that is respectful and inclusive; every voice in this discussion holds value. 📣 Spread the Word: If this topic resonates with you, please share the post and help lift the veil on substance abuse. 📚 Educate and Empower: Share resources that contribute to understanding substance abuse, its risks, and recovery paths. 🔗 Connect: Know of organisations or initiatives that support people dealing with substance abuse? Do share them here.

About the Author

Nite Tanzarn is an esteemed Independent International Consultant, highly regarded for her dedication to gender equality and the empowerment of women. In her current blog post, Nite tackles the intricate issue of addiction, drawing from both personal experiences and wider societal considerations. Her insightful narrative is relatable yet deeply impactful, highlighting her lifelong commitment to social justice across various sectors, including transport, agriculture, and rural development. Nite stands as a thought leader and a catalyst for change, constantly advocating for a better understanding of addiction and its complexities.

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26 comentários

05 de nov. de 2023

Addiction is a growing concern that has affected almost all families.


05 de nov. de 2023

This is a very important topic that, for some reason, we never want to talk about. Thank you for getting the discussion started.


22 de out. de 2023

U read and u want to be a part of what nite is doing. So much info u 8mag8ne a practical angle of what Nite is doing that u want to be a part of

Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
22 de out. de 2023
Respondendo a

I'm thrilled to hear that you found the information valuable and that it's sparked your interest in being part of what I am doing. Conversations around addiction need to be more compassionate and informed, and it's readers like you who add fuel to that mission. If you're interested in becoming more involved, please stay tuned for upcoming posts and resources. Your support and engagement are much appreciated.



#NITETANZARNIntellectNest #GESI #Addiction #Recovery🌟💪


16 de out. de 2023

Hi Nite, The idea of writing about substance abuse is so brilliant. How did you even think about it.

Substance abuse is a silent killer. Many parents and individuals are suffering silently. It brings stigma to both the parents, friends, and victims.

This topic is one of those that would have been tabled for discussion by Parliament a long time ago. Why is the world population quiet about it.

Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
16 de out. de 2023
Respondendo a

I truly appreciate your words of encouragement. The issue of substance abuse is indeed a silent crisis affecting countless lives across the globe. Its far-reaching implications are not just individual but ripple through families, communities, and entire societies. You're absolutely right; it's a subject that demands urgent attention and action on a broader scale, such as a Parliamentary discussion.

Why is the world so quiet about it? That's an excellent question. The stigma associated with addiction, coupled with widespread misconceptions, often results in a wall of silence. It hinders open dialogue and effective policymaking, but discussions like ours are a step in the right direction.

Your support fortifies the belief that we can break the silence and create lasting change.…


13 de out. de 2023

I have read thru the first one. Well I think you are courageous, because most people despite being victims are either ignorant or too shy to raise a murmur.

Well done, push on

Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
13 de out. de 2023
Respondendo a

Thank you for your kind words and the acknowledgment. It indeed takes a lot of courage to broach the subject of substance abuse, especially when it hits close to home. The stigma and misunderstanding surrounding addiction often silence the discussions that are crucial for community awareness and intervention.

Your encouragement is a heartening affirmation that opening up about such matters can foster a deeper understanding and perhaps prompt a more compassionate approach towards addressing the issue. It is through candid conversations and shared experiences that we can hope to dismantle the barriers of ignorance and shyness you mentioned, thus paving the way for a more supportive and informed society.

I am inspired to continue raising awareness about the impact of…

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