Addiction is not just a medical problem

Social connection and substance use

The opioid crisis is rampant and deaths from drug overdoses are higher than they have ever been in the U.S. For decades, addiction has been viewed as either a personal failing or a purely physical illness. Both approaches, argue Nina Christie, are not only deeply flawed, but exacerbate the problems that face us. Addiction is primarily a social phenomenon. It is time to revaluate old experiments and see what they reveal about what really drives problematic substance use.


Public perception is important. The way that the general population views a problem or a group of people often determines what policies we create to address that problem, and how that group of people is treated by society at large. The media plays a central role in creating public perception and the depiction of substance use behaviors is no exception. For decades, our perception, our continued use of stigmatizing language like “addict”, and our treatment of people who use drugs h

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