Challenging the stigma of addiction

Nothing in his medical training prepared Dr. Ralph Dell’Aquila for the truth about addiction.

“like everyone else, I thought addiction was simply a question of will power,” Dell’Aquila, a long-time addiction physician, told a crowd gathered at the city’s waterfront Saturday.

Part of a panel of local service providers, Dell’Aquila spoke during the second annual North Bay Recovery Day celebrations about the stigma and misconceptions surrounding addiction.

“The commonly held view is that addiction is a weakness or a vice or a character flaw, or, that romantic glamourous view, that it is one fighting one’s demons,” he said, noting it’s also a common stereotype that chemical dependency either happens to very poor or the very rich, with a stint in rehab viewed as a sort of badge of honour. “We all eventually soak in these attitudes based on a lack of understanding, and it even comes to be a bias.”

During medical training, Dell’Aquila said the negatives associated with addiction are only reinforced due to negatives encounters.

“When your working in the hospital and when you work in emerg (emergency) you just see people who are very ill,” he said, noting there are many others in the community who are in recovery and attending 12-step groups. “They’re not going hospital because they’re well.”

Dell’Aquila said physicians in training typically see only those who are aren’t yet in recovery, a small fraction – about 10 per cent – of those in the community who are actually dealing with addiction.

“That 10 per cent do no reflect the whole 100,” he said, highlighting how there are so many more addiction recovery successes.

That was one of the key messages of the Recovery Day event, which is aimed at creating awareness and stamping out stigma.

Locally, it was actually a two-day event, which kicked off Friday with an opening ceremony and movie at the waterfront. On Saturday speakers included those in recovery who…

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