Jamie Lee Curtis urges changing the way we think about addiction

February 28, 2014
Low self-esteem is a common hurdle that many addicts face before choosing drug rehab.The downward spiral of substance abuse can lead users to feel that their lives have fallen so out of sorts that the only solution to their problems is the drug that got them there. This image of the malcontent drug user – the “junkie” – has pervaded American culture to the point that it can stop families and friends of those with drug problems from getting help. They may see addiction as a choice and the addict as too far gone.

In a recent interview with PBS’ Travis Smiley, Golden Globe-winning actress and best-selling children’s author Jamie Lee Curtis explained how her own addiction and road to sobriety proves that drug addiction should be treated like a medical condition, and that you can never be too far away from recovery to take the first step toward it.

An accidental addiction

The successful actress and author has worked hard throughout her career to achieve her current status, but she has also worked through a period of addiction in her life. After Michael Jackson’s death in 2009, Curtis went public with her own story of dependency on drugs after a routine surgery.

“I too found painkillers after a routine cosmetic surgical procedure and I too became addicted, the morphine becomes the warm bath from which to escape painful reality,” Curtis wrote on a Huffington Post blog. “I was a lucky one. I was able to see that the pain had started long ago and far away and that the finding the narcotic was merely a matter of time.”

Curtis explained how even though she is incredibly grateful for her sobriety, it was not an easy path. Every day was a struggle for the actress, with friends, family and rehab specialists guiding her through the difficult yet rewarding path path of recovery every day.

“My recovery from drug addiction is the single greatest accomplishment of my life,” Curtis wrote.

Addiction today
Curtis’ progress from the days of her painkiller habit to the heights she has achieved over the years is a testament to the ability inherent in all who seek to overcome addiction, but she is quick to point out that today’s culture surrounding drug problems can be frustratingly black and white.

Speaking to PBS, Curtis noted the occasional propensity for mainstream culture to vilify addicts.

“I am married a long time, I’m raising two children; almost have raised two children,” she told host Smiley. “I’m trying to work within my community to try to help people. Am I just a bad person because in a routine medical situation I was given Vicodin, which was a prescribed narcotic painkiller, and I became addicted to it?”

Curtis went on to explain how the treatment options for substance abusers differs from that of other conditions like diabetes. Instead of providing a patient with insulin for two weeks and sending them on their way, the accepted medical practice is to make sure that patient has a supply of medicine for the rest of their life. Curtis asserted that ongoing, comprehensive treatment processes for addicts is the only way that many people can get clean.

“It works. It’s proven to work,” she told PBS. “So I think that we just have to realign the conversation and make addiction an understandable disease that people can help, get help through the myriad ways you can get help.”

An approach to drug addiction as a medical condition that requires a concerted effort to control could benefit millions of habitual users. Thankfully, addiction treatment centers across the country offer that very kind of compassion and care.

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