The definition of substance according to the free dictionary is: "A material of a particular kind of constitution."
The definition of dependence is: "The state of being determined, influenced, or controlled by something."
"Substance dependence the void we ignore but still judge"
When the subject of substance dependence comes up it is usually in reference to either drug or alcohol abuse. It covers a variety of things from illegal drugs, to prescription drugs, alcohol, tobacco, to the ever increasingly popular legal highs. We live in a society where all are readily available to anyone who wishes to consume them.
This is a topic that has been debated by professionals and non-professionals alike, with no definitive solution to the ever growing problem. We can no longer use the stereotype of what the typical "drug addict" or "alcoholic" is in today's modern society. All too often we only have to switch on the television, open the newspaper, or the latest gossip magazine and we see so many celebrities and people in positions of power being outed as either drug users or having alcohol dependency issues. It has now become a normal part of our television to show programmes where substance dependence is a normal part of daily life. While on one hand we condemn people who have drug or alcohol addictions, on the other we view them as entertainment.
Substance abuse can live behind anyone's door. It does not discriminate between rich or poor, colour or religion. It does not judge one more worthy than another. For those who take it, it fills a void. For those who live with it, it creates a void. It's two sides of the same coin and we are never truly outraged enough to act until it touches our own lives or families.
For the individuals whose lives have never been touched by substance dependence, this issue is very black and white. It's easy to adopt a judgemental attitude. We can say that the judicial system is too lenient on drug dealer and drug addicts alike. They have chosen the path they are on and should be treated accordingly. We can look at the rising crime element or anti-social behavioural pattern fallout, and everyone has an opinion on what is right or wrong with it. Given that we have all been blessed with free will, there will always be as many opinions on this subject as there are people on the planet. While we continue to debate this subject most of us untouched by the realities of addiction, a portion of the population lives in anguish or in many cases denial to the consequences of their actions.
And what about the loved ones of those whose lives are affected by substance dependence. Granted there are some among them who may be dependant themselves, or whose parenting has been lacking, but there are many among them who have done everything right and still face this despair of watching everything they love change to something unrecognisable. For them it is a very lonely and isolated place.
So why does an individual take any substance?
Ultimately it changes their perception to something other than what they are thinking or feeling at this precise moment in time. It could be to avoid feeling pain, sadness, guilt, tiredness, responsibility, or even enjoyment. The list goes on. Rather than recognize that our feelings are a guide - an internal sat nav, to tell us when we are going off course, many choose to avoid them. We don't like to feel uncomfortable. We don't want to look at why we feel this way and adjust our path accordingly, and we most certainly don't like taking responsibility for our choices in life.
So is it possible when it comes to "substance dependence the void we ignore but still judge" to change our out-dated beliefs into something that works for the benefit of all affected? If we as a society placed more emphasis on empowerment rather than encouraging people to stay victims we might have more success. Where is the personal power in being an addict? Where is the personal benefit in becoming enslaved by a substance?
There are many effective treatments out there for drug and alcohol dependency and it is about finding one or in some cases creating one that is going to work for you. Every conceivable problem in the world has a solution, sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to find the solution that works. We cannot change what we do not accept and until we face the fact that ultimately we do have a choice and those choices do have consequences which ultimately affect those around us, then we will probably still keep repeating the same mistakes.