Mental Health Bites

It is not ‘a war on drugs’, nor ‘a war on obesity’

The phrase ‘a war on drugs’ has been used for years; it is a term used to vilify those who use drugs and to imply that the government is taking seriously the country’s growing problems related to substance use.  Implied in this choice of vocabulary is the intent to handle the matter as a criminal one.

The same language is now applied to obesity – as if those who are overweight are committing some sort of crime, or sin; that they are inherently ‘bad’.

The phrase ‘a war on drugs’ has somehow morphed into a socially acceptable term; large pockets of the general public subscribing to the notion that drugs are bad, and that therefore people who take drug are also bad.  ‘A war on obesity’ is quickly following in its footsteps; people who are overweight and obese are treated (especially by the medical system) as if they are bad.

But we are framing this all wrong.  What is lost in this dialogue is the issue that lives between a person and their addiction (be it alcohol, heroin, food or something else).  In that gap between a person and their drug of choice is a reason; a void that is ‘easier’ to fill with food (or alcohol, or heroin etc), a void which may represent great emotional pain, a struggle to cope and function with life, mental illness, trauma….you get the idea.

If you are lucky enough to have been equipped to cope with all that life has thrown at you, then you might find the above scenario difficult to understand… but unresolved internal conflict (that is, anything a person struggles to cope with, even if that’s just getting out of bed) leads to self-medication; finding a way to numb the pain so that you can continue with life in some minimal way.  You probably have some sort of numbing agent in your own life – a glass of wine, a cigarette, perhaps over working.


All of this said, I believe we are having the wrong conversations – instead of asking how we prevent people from accessing the thing they are addicted to, we should instead be asking how we each, as humans, can support other humans so that they can cope with their lives.

It is not helpful to wage a war on someone who is already fighting an internal battle.  It just doesn’t make sense.  It’s inhuman.

So perhaps, next time you see someone struggling with their weight, or an actual drug addiction, instead of jumping to a judgment, instead of seeing them as inherently bad, you might instead choose to see that person as being in invisible pain.  Reach out to them, show them some compassion, be a human to a human.

One thought on “It is not ‘a war on drugs’, nor ‘a war on obesity’

  1. Stella Neophytou

    Thanks Kel, you are so right, we have to stop seeing the label and see the person and their struggle.By engaging with them, supporting, encouraging and teaching them skills to help them cope and problem solve we show them that they matter and that they can get the help they need.

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