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Leave all the junkies to rot.

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The tragic passing of Amy Winehouse brought divided opinions on the amount of sympathy her death should warrant. 

While facebook statuses were rife with commiserations and tributes a fairly large amount of users used the social networking site to question the attention. Her highly publicised car-crash lifestyle led many to think she was not worthy of sympathy.addict 3

Some trending examples..

‘She made her bed and is now laying in it.’

‘She was given all the opportunities that people dream of yet she wasted it all away through her own bad choices.’

‘She got what was coming to her.’

‘Why are we wasting headlines on some ‘dead beat celebrity’ when there are soldiers dying while fighting for our country?’

Addiction and substance abuse bring a whole realm of negative connotations. Scum, homeless, dirty and worthless. We hear addict and we see toothless tramp begging on the street corner, asking for our hard earned honest cash to get their fix – the cheek of it!

An angry builder posted photos to an online forum of needles found on a window sill before work one morning which sparked an array of abuse;

Rubix_Cube says; “Shoot them..... would save the strain on the NHS, would lower the crime rate, would allow a better level of life for all...”

P1-0031 says; “Everytime they go for their methadone, round them up and fuck them onto a train. Take them up to a remote island, build very very high walls round it and leave them to fucking rot and die.”

Following the leak of the video of Amy Winehouse smoking crack The Sun accompany the video with their potent use of words;

The footage also laid bare the Back To Black singer's squalid lifestyle as she stumbled around in a grubby vest surrounded by junkies and parasitic hangers-on..At one point, lank-haired Amy is warned to watch out for smashed glass on the floor as she scours a bedroom for her kitten barefoot.”

Jane Moore, a sun columnist sticks her oar in; “The temptation is to drag her by her egg-yellow hair round a ward at Great Ormond Street Hospital and show her the children fighting to stay alive. To hammer into her thick skull that she's lucky enough to have a healthy body and mind that she's wilfully choosing to destroy.”

The NHS definition of addiction is; ‘not having control over doing, taking or using something, to the point that it may be harmful.’ The information on the NHS site then goes onto explain how; ‘some people regularly use substances without any problems. Other people experience damaging psychological and physical effects as their habit turns into an addiction.  There is no single reason why addictions develop. Addictions to substances such as alcohol, drugs and nicotine change the way we feel, both mentally and physically. Some people enjoy this and feel a strong desire to repeat it.’

If some people are more susceptible to addiction than others and something in their psychological makeup means that they lose control of their actions, surely this is a defect, a type of disability which can result in a very serious illness.

The bashing of ‘junkie scum’ seems to have grown from the idea that the difference with addiction is that the victims have a choice. They wilfully chose to become addicted; whereas cancer victims don’t have a choice.

Russell Brand the famous former addict talks about his experience of heroin;

“All of us, I think, have a vague idea that we're missing something. Some say that thing is God; that all the longing we feel - be it for a lover, or a football team, or a drug - is merely an inappropriate substitute for the longing we're supposed to feel for God, for oneness, for truth. And what heroin does really successfully is objectify that need.”

Maybe the feeling that there is ‘something missing’ is a form of unhappiness. Those who feel this discontentment and fail to find anything in the real world that satisfies it could be those who are susceptible to addiction. Do these people therefore choose to feel this emptiness?

I think it’s safe to say that no one chooses to be depressed.

In the BBC3 series ‘Small Teen Bigger World’, the star of the program – Jazz, a seventeen year old girl with restricted growth meets her dad after his heroin addiction led to her mother, Bev, cutting contact. He is accepted back into the family after vowing to conquer his habit. In the last episode out of four she discovers he has been using again, and says the minute she found out she lost all respect for him. She says she knows that her dad can’t help it because he’s been using for so many years, it’s completely taken over him, but she needs to ask him to stay away and it’s the hardest thing she’s ever had to do. Her dad, Paul, says; “I’m heartbroken, I’ve lost Bev and Jazz and that just hurts so so much. For a little bit of brown powder I’ve lost their trust, their respect. I just wish I hadn’t had done it.”

Has it ever been considered that the reason these people end up homeless or shunned from the family is because there is a lack of understanding and help? Not because they are such parasitic human beings that they are not worthy of support and care.

Russell Brand is cited as a ‘recovering addict’, even though he has been clean for nearly ten years. This suggests that perhaps addiction is not conquered by a simple few weeks in rehab. The need for an altered state of mind could be something that is deeply embedded in some people’s minds. The contentment that most people receive from life may be something that others do not have from birth and is something they need to go through a process to learn. Maybe the answer is to learn more about the psychological effects of addiction, something that is perhaps not as simple as due to lack of self control.

Instead of branding the sufferers of addiction as the dregs of society who are wilfully draining our resources how about considering them as victims of a mental illness.

Junkies and alcoholics could be redefined as people who don’t have the psychological makeup that makes them care about themselves and life enough to not self destruct.

Who are we to judge someone’s worth based on a mental state that is clearly misunderstood?

Perhaps next time you see someone struggling with addiction the first reaction will not be to look down your nose, it will be to treat them as a human being with an illness that our system is currently ill equipped to treat.

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