Governor Chris Christie has lent a powerful voice to having addiction understood as an illness for which treatment has benefits both for the affected individual and for society. It is difficult to overstate the importance of his speaking out about addiction in this way. For decades, people with alcohol or drug problems have been beset by attitudes that disparage their character and deny them a future by foreclosing opportunities for work, education, housing, to name a few.
The Governor’s most recent remarks on addiction and
the possibilities offered through treatment came on March 13, at a Town Hall in Mt. Laurel. He spoke of
“seeing miracles happen,” people emerging to reclaim their lives following a period of inpatient treatment. On that same
date, a chorus of advocates amplified
the message about the need for addiction treatment in testimony before the
Senate Budget Committee.
While the idea of addiction as a chronic illness may
be news to many, the mounting toll taken by addiction to heroin and prescription
opiates is common knowledge. Legislators, school officials, law enforcement
officials and others are understandably shaken by this problem, but if they
listen to the governor and to the advocates, they may begin to understand how
best to confront it.