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The Double Standard Of Addiction: Why All Cases Should Be Treated Equally

October 19, 2015 3 min read

There is not a person on this earth who deserves the fate that has currently taken hold of former NBA champion Lamar Odom.  Not only does it suck to see such a bright light diminished, it is hell for his family and friends. Pure hell. Since news of Odom's overdose broke, the media has been supportive, sending love and well wishes to both Odom and his loved ones. And this is exactly how it should be. But, we need to remember something, not everyone is treated with that level of respect and concern. LAMAR3 For people who aren't celebrities understanding and drug intervention therapies can be hard to come by. The difference between Lamar Odom and the "average" drug addict is found in the way people are responding. People know Odom (or at least think they do), when they hear this story their hearts break. And this is exactly how it should be. Where Odom is seen battling dark demons and the disease of addiction, the "average" drug addict is viewed as a low life loser who can't get his/her life together. Add poverty to the mix and you're dealing with a lethal combination. Resources are not plentiful for people who cannot afford them. Resources are not plentiful for people who do not know how to advocate for themselves. Hospitals turn them away, without treatment, because they are just "drug addicts." They will die of an overdose one day so why waste the resources today. This position, assumed by many medical professionals, has come from years of seeing it, over and over. Years of seeing people unable to help themselves and creating the assumption that these people are unwilling to help themselves. It is a jaded position. But just because those conclusions are understandable, doesn't make them right. LAMAR1 Although we cannot say for certain, Lamar Odom will not likely face any of these issues when it comes to his care. This isn't cynicism. This is reality. We will excuse our celebrities, their diseases and vices. We love them even more when they are flawed -- just like us, while at the same time turning our backs on the people who struggle in the same way in our own communities. We want to talk about mental illness (and the truth is, drug addiction often comes along with mental illness) until we actually have to talk about mental illness. We lock drug addicts in prison, we leave them to sleep on the streets. We assume they've made bad choices, and some have, in the name of having a wild carefree time. We assume they just didn't know when to stop and shake our heads and cluck our tongues. They really should know better. But if it is a celebrity in the same position, we feel differently. The demands of fame, the public scrutiny and pressure. It all becomes too much to handle. This is probably true. But the implication that the average person dealing with an addiction doesn't also have social pressure and public scrutiny is false. LAMAR2 Drugs do destroy lives. They destroy the lives of the users and the lives of everyone who loves them. But how we respond to people with addictions can be every bit as destructive.

So, while we hope Lamar Odom has the most favourable outcome possible, let's not forget the average person with similar struggles. Just as we don't know what really lead Odom to use, we don't know what has lead the men and women in our own communities to use.

Let us not make things worse with our judgments and assumptions.

Let's not forget that all addicts are human, not just the ones that happen to have money.

Source: Elite Daily

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