The title of this post links to a BBC article about opium use in Afghanistan.  I think the article has a very telling and honest tone which I hear constantly when people talk about addiction.  When people talk about addiction and why substance abuse happens they often list the dismal life circumstances of the abuser, the problems they must deal with, and the momentary escape from these realities that drugs and alcohol can provide.  Take a look at this quote from the article:

The land they occupy is as barren as it is wild; too hot in the summer and stranded by mud in the winter.

There are no fields or forests, no rivers or streams, so the men spend the day gathering brushwood while the women go to work on one of Afghanistan’s most famous exports: carpets.

But it is back-breaking work and the women complain that they ache all over.

On average, it takes three months of 10-hour days and seven-day weeks to create one of these beautiful rugs, and it is opium that keeps them going.

Three times a day, they stop work to smoke, and for a while the pain eases and the misery of life floats away.

I believe this.  It’s not an excuse, it’s just an explanation of the rampant opium abuse in Afghanistan.  These people live a life of hardship, and generally have very little to look forward to, so they find relief in chemically induced highs.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t endorse the opium as an alternative to dealing with reality, but I understand that is the option people may choose in these conditions, especially since it’s so readily available.
Here’s another quote from the article:

A new survey is being finalised now and is expected to show a 50% rise in the number of addicts to about 1.5 million.

In a country of just 30 million, that would mean Afghanistan has the highest relative rate of addiction of any country in the world.

………the overall trend for the last 10 years is of a massive increase in opium production and addiction.

You know what else has been happening over the past 10 years in Afghanistan?  A brutal war.  Afghanistan has the highest rate of addiction of any country, and it also has a history of political instability that is probably the worst of any country.  The headline of the BBC article is “Opium Addiction Fuels Afghan Chaos”, but what I see is that the afghan chaos is fueling opium addiction.
I bring this up only to show that circumstances matter.  Quality of life matters.  Here in the US we have research which shows that people of higher socioeconomic status and education are more likely to quit abusing substances without treatment, to move from abuse to moderate use, and to never abuse substances in the first place – than those of lower education and socioeconomic status.  Putting that knowledge together with the state of addiction in Afghanistan we can see a trend.  As quality of life, and social & economic stability go up – addiction goes down.

Think about this and you will notice that there are always real world reasons offered up for why people abuse substances, knowing that there are reasons, and everyone has reasons for why they started abusing substances and/or why they continue to abuse, why do we then try to solve substance abuse problems by curing a disease?  Instead of blaming a phantom disease, let’s follow those reasons for use and see if they can lead us to a solution.

My recommendation for anyone struggling with a substance abuse problem – focus on improving your life.  Move on from addiction, and build a life that satisfies you more than excessive drug and alcohol use ever could.
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