Experiences of Drug Addicts Regarding the Medicalization of Addiction
Health management- Health Humanities Resaerch Center Isfahan University of Medical sciences Isfahan, Iran
Department of Sociology Memorial University of Newfoundland Newfoundland, Canada
Department of Sociology University of Isfahan Isfahan, Iran
Background: Medicalization is a process by which non-medical problems are defined and treated as medical problems, usually in terms of illness or disorder. While drug addiction has generally been seen as a form of deviant behaviour, new approaches tend to look at it as an illness in need of medical treatment. In fact, by way of medicalizing addiction a second chance may be given to addicts to identify themselves as patients and use medical support to make changes in their lives. This paper investigates the medicalization of drug addiction in Iran.
Methods: A purposeful sample of nine male addicts, admitted to a treatment center at the Isfahan Welfare Organization, were interviewed. We used Coaizzi?s phenomenological approach to examine (1) their self-experiences of addiction, (2) the attitudes of medical-treatment institutions toward addiction (3) and the attitudes of the larger society toward addiction.
Results: The results of the study show that while addiction is medicalized at both institutional (medical-treatment centers) and personal (addict) levels, Iranian society still applies a moral-criminal approach toward addiction.
Conclusion: Addicts suffer from the prevailing social attitudes towards addiction, they become stigmatized as a result, entrapped in a paradox in which they see themselves, on the one hand, as patients in need of medical treatment and, on the other hand, as criminals who are often severely punished.