In the age of the internet, many people believe they can educate themselves to be a functionally knowledgeable person about whatever topic they dream of. Don’t know what this rash is on your arm? In five minutes, someone will visit WebMD and conclude they know exactly what the rash is, how to cure it, how to prevent it and how to diagnose it in the future, thinking this is just as good as seeing a physician who has trained for years and has years of experience with tens of thousands of patients and properly treated all kinds of rashes.
A quote from the book “Pineapple Army” says it best, when the lead character was shouting after his student who decided after two days of training, he was ready to go face his bullies:
“A half mastered skill is worse than none!”, Joe shouted helplessly as he watched the eager teen disappear into the distance, running at full speed with a head full of false confidence.
When it comes to substance use disorders, such as cocaine addiction, people will immediately behave as if they know everything about addiction, even though medical research continues to reveal new things that even experts weren’t even sure on. Even when these new discoveries are made, it takes time to verify and adopt the new information into tangible action. Often times, the new information will contradict already established dogma that people have internalized about that subject.
Sometimes, it becomes so ingrained into public culture, that it decides government policies, attitudes and reaction to that thing, and substance use disorder has had a rather terrible track record in this regard historically. One of the first and most widely recognized mistakes to treat addiction publicly happened with the Prohibition era, which constitutionally banned use and sale of alcohol. The intent was noble; there were many people concerned about the effects of alcoholism on society, but lack of understanding about the problem lead to actions that made the situation so bad that the amendment was fully reversed just a few years later.
America continued to make these same mistakes, the most notable being the War On Drugs, which treated several very specific substances as contraband and anyone caught with it, using it or distributing it effectively a public enemy. Just like the prohibition era, the decisions made were noble, but ultimately made the problem worse because there was not sufficient information to even know what a good decision would be.
The study of addiction as an ailment has only just recently become more understood, with treatments surfacing that fly in the face of public knowledge that is internalized about drug use even to this day. Experts in the field do their best to deliver as accurate new info as they possibly can as they obtain it, but the average person who is not in the industry has to have some trust that they are not trying to stir the pot or make you feel dumb, they’re trying to actually do what they can to help the public more effectively reverse addiction.