People addicted to drugs, alcohol or other substances certainly aren't kind, charitable, salt-of-the-earth folks. They lie, steal and cheat; they're angry and abusive. They're just plain bad. Except that they aren't.
Research — several decades' worth — consistently shows addiction is a complicated brain disease that can strike anyone, at any time, without regard for race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or anything else. Just as some people are more susceptible to heart disease or cancer, some are more susceptible to addiction. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about half of all addicts have a genetic susceptibility to addiction. Other risk factors include the age you started using alcohol or drugs (the earlier you started, the more likely an addiction will develop) and your home environment (abuse, neglect and trauma are contributing factors) [source: NCADD].
Yes, a person still makes the choice to try alcohol or drugs. But often that person is a pretty typical risk-taking adolescent. It's also true an addict may lie, steal and cheat in order to score that next hit, or buy that quart of booze, all unsavory actions. But that doesn't mean the addict is a terrible person. Addicts are sick people, not bad seeds, who need help.