A significant challenge for those who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction is facing and overcoming the stigma attached to it. Stigmas are inflicted by friends, family, society, communities, and can create significant hurt and discrimination. Addiction is a disease that is treatable by enlisting the help of a rehab program. Addiction treatment programs may include medication, behavioral therapy, skill development, fitness regimens, or alternative therapy.
Still, many people think that drug addiction is a personality flaw or a weakness. They may believe that an alcohol abuser can’t handle their liquor. Maybe they assume that marijuana users should quit. And they’ll likely think methamphetamine users should smash their pipe walk away. Sadly, overcoming addiction is not that simple. There are many circumstances as to why someone abuses substances despite the negative consequences that come with it.
Stigma is a negative belief from society regarding a topic or group of people. It causes a significant amount of exclusion and discrimination, contributing to the abuse of human rights. People who experience stigma feel as if they are less than because of their perceived health state.
Stigma is seldomly based on facts but instead on opinions, biases, and generalizations. Therefore, its negative influence can be reduced through education. Stigma causes rejection, prejudice, avoidance, and discrimination against those who have a socially unpopular trait or are involved in self-harming behaviors, like substance abuse.
Friends, family, and the general public can carry negative feelings about people suffering from substance addiction. They may hurl derogatory terms at them like “alcoholic,” “junkie,” or “crackhead.” These thoughts, feelings, and names can create and immortalize stigma.
Nearly everyone has either felt stigmatized or has stigmatized someone else at some point throughout their life. Studies have shown that the general public was more inclined to have a negative attitude towards those suffering from substance addiction than those who have a mental illness. Furthermore, researchers found that society doesn’t usually support housing, insurance, and employment policies beneficial for people who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction.
Shame is a feeling that commonly accompanies substance dependence. This is due to society’s stigmatization of substance abusers, which in turn makes the user believe and accept the negative stigma of addiction as truth in their mind. Users will feel a sense of shame when they encounter name-calling and the stigma of addiction, because of their disease that both physically and psychologically take ahold of them.
It is factual that the moment people meet, they judge and evaluate each other’s behavior and find common ground categories. This “getting to know each other” goes on until the subject has exhibited enough to fill out their identity. This process does become contaminated, though when people start labeling and referring to others with negative stereotypes.
Addiction stigmas are dangerous for various reasons because:
Studies conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health stated that the general public is more prone to have negative feelings towards those dealing with substance addiction than those who experience mental illness.
Substance use disorders are usually treated as a criminal and moral issue rather than a health concern. This is especially true regarding illegal substances. Using drugs like heroin or cocaine is a crime and is deemed by society as a morally harmful choice.
Reasons like this are why those who suffer from substance use disorders don’t enlist the help of treatment. A study from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health discovered that 21.5 million U.S citizens ages 12 and older had a substance use disorder within the past year. But, only 2.5 million received the treatment they require
Stigmas of alcohol addiction:
Stigmas of drug addiction:
There are addiction stigmas surrounding users, but there are facts about them too. Listed are some facts about substance abusers which include:
Some reasons not to refer to someone as an addict include:
People have stated they observed stigma from healthcare providers, loved ones, and the public. Regardless of the situation, no one wants to be judged or depreciated. To encourage somebody to reach out for help and receive addiction treatment, it is crucial to reduce the stigma of addiction surrounding their situation. Educational programs and practicing non-stigmatizing behavior can help individuals in contributing nonjudgmental, empathic support.
Effective methods to help reduce the stigma of addiction include:
There is a place where you can overcome the stigma of drug addiction while helping you quit all substance use for good. Maybe you have a loved one or family member that could benefit from the journey of getting sober and getting back to living a happy, healthy lifestyle.
Contact us today and allow our team to get you the answers you seek and the help you deserve.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.