Addiction: A New Civil Rights Movement

Imagine a civil rights issue that could mobilize people of every race and religion, every gender and orientation, both political parties, both rich and poor, both educated and uneducated. An issue that an estimated 23 million Americans are suffering from and another 20 million Americans are dealing with every day. An issue that when you add in their loved ones: mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons… Directly affecting about 1 in 3 Americans.

Does such issue exist? The answer: Yes.

I believe addiction is by far the biggest civil rights issues of our time. We take people with a disease and punish them for it, just like we used to punish people for the color of their skin. Now we’re even letting them die in record numbers — death by drug overdose now outnumbers death by auto accident — and in shame because of the stigma that still surrounds addiction today.

We expect them to diagnose themselves, ask for help & then find a way to pay for it. And if they can’t, we expect them to suffer in silence & anonymously (of course).

We don’t support them after they get sober or help them get back up if they relapse.

We don’t subsidize their education or even incentivize their full-time employment.

In fact, as a society, we don’t do very much for them at all — Not like we should.

Try to name another disease in which those who suffer are treated so poorly, and you will undoubtedly be hard-pressed.

Perhaps you conjure up memories of how HIV/AIDS patients were treated at first and there are definitely some similarities. Thankfully things have improved on that front because it was wrong then just like it is wrong now. It’s important to note that in the vast majority of HIV/AIDS patients, their condition resulted from their actions. It is also important to note that with addiction, that is simply not the case.

Yet here we are, 2017, facing what is shaping up to be the most pressing civil rights issue of our generation. And the question is, how will we respond to it?

Will we stand tall and demand social change like generations have before us? Will we as individuals, families, businesses, churches, communities and as a society answer the call to defend the right to life, liberty & pursuit of happiness?

Because if we don’t, we’re not just missing an opportunity to improve the lives of over 100 million Americans, we are failing to defend our own, because it’s only a matter of time before addiction can affect even those lives that it hasn’t affected already.