Stigma of Addiction
The word stigma is defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”. When it comes to addiction, there are few other things that are more stigmatized than it is. From comments on social media forums to remarks made face-to-face in a public area, people throughout the country are rooted in their beliefs that addiction a made-up condition or that only “weak” people deal with this problem. Sadly, stigma regarding addiction still exists today, even with all of the information people in the United States have at their disposal regarding this disease. And, the people who suffer the most from this stigma are those who are experiencing addiction first-hand and who need help the most.
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Common Misconceptions About Addiction
Today, substance abuse is at an all-time high. Every single day, approximately 115 people die from an opioid overdose while thousands of others struggle with the symptoms and effects of their substance use disorders. Addiction is so pervasive in America that it is getting harder and harder to find someone who does not know of someone else who has struggled with a substance use disorder. However, despite how common addiction is and how many people encounter it on a daily basis, the stigma surrounding this disease still remains. Part of the reason that this persists is because of several misconceptions about this specific disease, including the following:
“Addiction is a Choice”
The sheer disbelief of the types of behaviors and actions someone who is abusing drugs and/or alcohol displays is often what makes those who are not struggling with addiction feel like this disease has to be a choice. It is simply unfathomable to many that abusing a drug is so important that a user is willing to risk his or her life (or the lives of others) over it. And, when someone who does not have a substance use disorder or who is not educated about this disease has a loved one who is addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, the behaviors that the loved one can partake in can feel like personal attacks, not symptoms of a bigger problem. However, addiction is anything but a choice, instead, it is defined as a chronic, relapsing disease of the brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry. For years, studies and research have continually supported addiction as a disease, and despite this information being open to the public, the stigma of addiction as a choice continues.
“Only Bad People Abuse Drugs.”
While some people who abuse drugs are easily classified as being “bad” in relation to society’s standards, being a bad person is not a requirement of having an addiction. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people who are kind, considerate, and thoughtful of themselves, others, and the world around them struggle with substance use disorders. This disease is non-discriminatory, meaning that any person of any age, gender, or background can develop a substance use disorder. It is commonly believed that those who abuse drugs and/or alcohol are “bad” people, usually, because the behaviors that they partake in are either dangerous, thoughtless, cruel, or selfish. When these behaviors are occurring, though, they are really just a symptom of the effects of abusing mind-altering substances.
“People in Recovery Can’t be Trusted.”
Many people who are in recovery from active addiction often still experience the negative stigma associated with this disease despite no longer using. One of the most common misconceptions about those in recovery is that they cannot be trusted. Many people fear that getting close to someone who is in recovery, hiring someone in recovery, or allowing their families around someone in recovery is a major risk because it is unknown if that individual will relapse or is using but not being honest about it. It is completely understandable for people not addicted to drugs and/or alcohol or in recovery to have little trust in those who are, however treating someone in recovery as if they cannot be trusted can be hurtful and appear ignorant. Sadly, despite information being readily available to the public explaining how addiction and recovery work, countless individuals choose to keep their distance from those in recovery.
Dangers of Stigma
Stigmas surrounding addiction, such as those described above, do not just hurt someone’s feelings but can make having an addiction that much harder.
When someone has cancer or diabetes, people do not place blame on them, nor do they ignore the health needs that they have. Instead, there are several supports put in place by professionals. The same does not apply to the disease of addiction, and the dangers of that are very real. The stigma of addiction can be dangerous in the following ways:
Reduces Access to Treatment
Even with factual evidence that addiction is a disease that requires professional care, getting that care is still a major obstacle. Insurance companies do not provide full coverage for services required for addiction treatment and, in some cases, no insurance is covered at all for these services. A huge reason this occurs is because of the stigma of addiction.
Discourages People from Getting Help
Today, it is possible for every single in the person in the country to voice their opinion not only in a face-to-face manner but also through online platforms. These opinions permeate throughout society, and for someone who is in need of help, reaching out for the help can be extremely intimidating. Not only do they already feel nervous asking for help, but knowing how others around them might act when learning that they have an addiction can keep them from making the decision to get sober. For some, this part of the stigma can be deadly, because the fear of admitting an addiction can be too overwhelming, so use continues, which can be fatal.
Getting Help at JourneyPure
If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, do not let anything stand in the way of obtaining professional treatment. At JourneyPure, we work to ensure that all patients walk away with the opportunity to live a happy, healthy, full life free from substance abuse and judgment.