On August 31, President Donald Trump officially proclaimed September 2020 as National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. In honor of the month, First Lady Melania Trump and the Office of National Drug Control Policy hosted an event called “Recovery at Work: Celebrating Connections” on September 3. At this event, the First Lady called on employers to eliminate the stigma associated with drug and alcohol addiction to better support the well-being of their employees.

This stigma has real and often tragic consequences. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, approximately 21 million Americans are struggling with at least one addiction, yet only about 10% of them receive treatment. Since the 1990s, drug and alcohol overdoses have more than tripled. Addiction affects millions of people – 69 percent of people in the U.S. report knowing someone who struggles with alcohol or other drugs.

In effort to smash the stigma of addiction to drugs or alcohol and carry the message of hope that recovery brings, National Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for substance use and mental disorders. It also celebrates people in recovery, lauds the contributions of treatment and service providers, and promotes the message that recovery in all its forms is possible. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, that treatment is effective, and that people can and do recover.

Much of our scientific understanding of addiction is relatively new, so much of what people believe about drug and alcohol use is tied up in negative belief systems. Addiction and cancer are similar diseases: both diseases are chronic, progressive, and life threatening. Nobody deserves to get either one, yet public attitudes toward the victims of these diseases are as different as night and day.

Why is addiction the only disease without a ribbon of hope wrapped around it… a ribbon of hope that can be worn in public?

Misconceptions About Addiction

There are two main misconceptions that drive me crazy when it comes to addiction. One is the idea that an individual needs to hit rock bottom before they can get any help. That is absolutely wrong. There is no evidence that this is true, in fact, it’s quite the opposite. The earlier in the addiction process that you can intervene and get someone help, the more they have to live for and the more they have to get better for.

The other misconception is that one has to want to be treated, in order to get better. The fact is, interventions are successful. People who are pushed to enter treatment programs by an employer, companion, parent, or the criminal justice system have successful track records with treatment, just like those who entered treatment voluntarily.

Changing attitudes about drug addiction, treatment and recovery are starting to take hold. Public education helps people understand that addiction to drugs or alcohol is a treatable illness, not a moral failing. Just as society has reduced the stigma of illnesses such as leprosy and cancer, the stigma of addiction can be overcome.

During the month of September, and for that matter every day of the year, will you help me wrap a ribbon of hope around those millions of people touched by the disease of addiction every day?

Please remember, that if you or a loved one needs help with addiction to drugs or alcohol, you may reach out to me personally, anytime and I promise to do everything I possibly can do to help AIM you and your loved ones in the right direction!