To judge another person’s decision is easy if you have never been in their place. A few days ago I read an article in the Herald Sun about the death of Peaches Geldof, written by Tom Elliot, who firmly believes that Geldof’s ongoing addiction to heroin was a choice.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe the first encounter with anything is a choice (if the person is informed and in control). If at this very moment someone appeared and offered me drugs, I would say no – because I know the ill-effects and dangers of taking them. If I said yes, it would be a conscious decision which I would be prepared to take the blame for. Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as simply saying yes or no. In his article, Elliot says drug addiction “is not a disease from which personal responsibility can be conveniently removed” and I agree. If a person takes a drug for the first time, whilst aware of the risks, they should be blamed. It is a stupid decision to make. However, drug addiction is not the black and white issue Elliot believes it be, no matter how much I wish this were the case.
Although drug use may begin with a choice, addiction is not a series of conscious decisions. It causes a person’s brain to go on auto-pilot, making them feel like they need (not want) to take drugs. The blur between needing and wanting prevents a person from recognising that there is a problem, because a need is something you must have in order to survive. It is extremely difficult for a person addicted to drugs to regain self-control and the power to make their own decisions when their judgement is so clouded. For Elliot to get on his high horse and say “stupidity is not a disease” is ridiculous. We would not be experiencing such a drug epidemic if addiction was an easily fixed problem, solved simply by having the power to say no. It is not easy for a person who is addicted to simply say no and stop taking drugs, no matter the consequences for themselves or their loved ones. They must find their remaining self-control and consciously decide they want to quit. It requires time, effort, pain, a good support system and multiple attempts.
Elliot even goes as far as to compare drug addiction to Forgotten Baby Syndrome (FBS). How could a new mother assume she had taken her baby daughter out of the car, and not notice she was missing for two hours on a 30 degree day? The mother was fully aware and not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The judge ruled she was not negligent in her daughters death and instead suffering from FBS. To compare the two is misguided, and quite frankly, ignorant on Elliot’s behalf. He may paint himself as the perfect example of a socially responsible adult, but Elliot cannot truly judge the difficulties of drug addiction, as he has never experienced them himself. I understand his trouble with accepting a mother (Peaches) who has seemingly overlooked the welfare of her children. I do believe that hidden amongst the subconscious mind-control of drug addiction, a person has the ability to say no. However, the extent to which this power is hidden and weakened by addiction is another story. I have been guilty myself of thinking and wishing it was easy, but I know this is not the case. For Elliot to label ongoing drug addiction as a sequence of informed yet stupid decisions, suggests he has a very narrow-minded and ignorant view, one which overlooks medical and scientific evidence.
What do you think? Do you believe drug addiction is a disease or just as phoney as FBS? Is a person addicted to drugs in complete control and able to stop whenever they please? Read the article here and share your thoughts in the comment box below!