A Scarcity Mind Set Pits Us Against Each Other

The fear of not getting enough is deeply ingrained in our society. Signs of fear are a belief that there is not enough for everyone. Since there is not enough for everyone, you need to fight for resources. You have to protect what is yours from others getting it. When we are focused on scarcity, we become more anxious and negative in our reactions.

The above meme  “If Methadone is free to addicts because they have a disease, Why is chemo not free for cancer patients?” went viral. This particular meme regarding Methadone is an example of a scarcity mind set. It is assumed that there are not enough resources, financial or otherwise, available to assist both cancer treatment and addiction treatment.

The meme may also imply that cancer patients are more valuable than people who are dependent upon opioids. This stigma is based upon the idea that drug abuse is amoral, antisocial behavior based upon a choice to become addicted. Is the same stigma applied to the person with lung cancer who made a conscious decision to pick up their first cigarette? One is not more worthy of treatment than the other. It’s a race to the bottom deciding who is worthy to live. Besides, the person dependent on opioids could be the next person to discover a cure for cancer.

I saw a post of the same meme with a comment, “At least cancer patients want to live and addicts don’t” or something to that effect. Although there are exceptions, opioid dependent persons do not have a death wish. Their lives are consumed with finding the substance they need to avoid withdrawal symptoms. They are doing everything they can to live pain free hour by hour, day by day.

Let’s clear up the facts. First, the opioid epidemic is a public health issue and the use of methadone maintenance is a harm-reduction strategy. Rates of drug related deaths are skyrocketing and medication assisted treatment has cut death rates by 50% or more. Methadone and Suboxone treatments are the gold standard of treatment.

Second, Methadone is not free. Why do some patients pay for their treatment and others pay nothing? It depends on the patient’s income and insurance status, the state’s funding programs, private or public grants, and whether the treatment clinic is profit or not-for-profit. All medical treatment, including cancer, varies across these lines.

Every time you see a meme that belittles addiction treatment, think twice before sharing it. No good comes from shaming people, and in fact, may prevent someone from entering treatment.

Those with a scarcity mind set believe that there are not enough resources to go around, leading to over-competitiveness. We don’t need to elbow our way to get the front-row seat. We could all join forces, not pitting against each other, to highlight the growing cost of medical care. Let’s unify to fight the same battle for all.


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