Addiction is treatable despite common misconception

Dear Editors,

I appreciate the Cynic’s coverage of issues related to student heath, including recent coverage of drug use.

As a drug and alcohol counselor on campus, I’m all for getting us to talk about use and non-use.

Thank you for contributing to the conversation.

In my job, I mostly talk with students one-on-one. From this, I have developed a profound respect for the individuals that I have met.

Occasionally, someone I talk to is struggling with a significant addiction issue.

Far more often, students are just trying to find the right balance.

They are grateful for the chance to think it through, and I admire their openness.

When talking about substance use, and I noticed this in your content, I sometimes hear the sentiment that, “People are going to do what they’re going to do. You can’t stop them.”

It is a sentiment remarkably ignorant of psychology, philosophy, economics or just lived experience. It should be debunked.

UVM takes a public health informed, harm reduction approach.

We work to reduce substance misuse and support non-use.

The goal is never control; “stopping” people is not the point.

It is disempowering and disconnecting to think that people are going to do “what they want to do.”

People do things all the time that they do not want to do. Most often, we do things without even thinking.

There are forces in life that are designed to limit people’s freedoms and autonomy.

Sensing that, people sometimes feel that drug use itself is an antidote. It’s not.

Some drugs whisper escape; other drugs shout it. In the end, misuse just recreates the cycles people were trying to escape.

Addiction and misuse take away autonomy. I’ve learned these lessons repeatedly in life, but my most constant teachers have been students.

Having been a witness to their struggles, courage and inspiration, I cannot let a dismissive sentiment like “you do you,” or “people are going to do what they want to do,” go by unaddressed.

Sentiments like those keep us from seeing people, knowing them and connecting.

Warm regards,

Tom Fontana


BASICS Program Coordimator