National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Director Nora Volkow, M.D. blogs about how one can use science to counter the stigma of drug addiction. There are still people who believe addiction is a moral failing that could be solved if the person had more willpower. In fact, the science is clear: Addiction is a chronic, relapsing neurobiological disorder caused by changes in the brain that make controlling drug use extremely difficult, even when an individual knows it has terrible consequences for his or her life and health and wants to stop. Journalists can help reduce the stigma toward addiction by providing information that helps the reader understand the person suffering from addiction rather than writing stories that generate anger and disgust. Increasing the public understanding of the underlying pathology and cultural reinforcers of addiction is a critical first step for improving the way our society addresses addiction. Journalists can dig deeper and ask how everyone can facilitate a more compassionate public health-based approach to those suffering from addiction.
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