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Alcoholism and stigmas

The guest opinion of the January 28 Spokesman-Review (“Ending the stigma of addiction a crucial step in the fight,” Keith Kadel) strongly resonated with me because I, too, have a child suffering from addiction and have seen the devastation it causes individuals, families, workplaces and communities.

Further, working as a mental health therapist for the Department of Corrections, I observed officers living and attempting to work with the illness of alcoholism. They spoke to me of workplace conflicts, family breakups, losses of one kind and another. It was heartbreaking.

After retirement, I volunteered with offender programs and heard the very same stories from inmates! Most of the actions that brought those men to prison occurred under the influence of a substance: most child abuse, most domestic violence, most murders, occur under the influence of a substance. The brain can recover from addiction, but only if we see addiction as a public health crisis — a public health emergency — can we adequately respond.

Dr. Kadel grieves not only for the loss of his son, but also for the national loss we suffer because stigma distances afflicted individuals from the source of help and healing. I do not know him — had never heard of him before reading this piece in the Spokesman — but I concur with his points, and applaud them. I hope you’ll find space for my argument to add alcoholism to the list of conditions that are blamed on those who suffer from them.

Linda Gaffney