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Social Stigma and Drug Addiction

Stigma is defined as a negative attitude or discrimination against someone based on a distinguishing trait such as a disability, mental health disorder, or other health condition. It is a set of negative beliefs that society or a group holds about a group of people or topics. Stigma is a major cause of exclusion and discrimination, and it can contribute to the abuse of human rights. To experience stigma is to be treated less than because of an actual or perceived health condition. Stigma is not usually based on facts, but rather on generalizations, preconceptions, and assumptions. Stigmas result in being rejected, avoided, prejudiced, and discriminated against.

Is Substance Abuse Stigmatized?

A social stigma can be related to characteristics such as sexuality, gender, religion, culture, or race. Addiction along with mental health disorders are badly stigmatized in this country. The fact is that the general public along with family and friends carry negative feelings when it comes to substance abuse or behavior. Derogatory words are often used to label those with addiction issues, alcoholic, crackhead, or junkie are just a few of the names that addicts are regularly called. Anyone can develop a substance use disorder. In fact, millions of Americans suffer from addiction. A 2014 national survey showed that 21.5 million Americans age 12 and older had a substance use disorder the previous year. We as a nation can do better by decreasing the stigma around drug use. The National Institute on Drug Abuse “Addressing the Stigma that Surrounds Addiction” states that:

Stigma is a problem with health conditions ranging from cancer and HIV to many mental illnesses. Some gains have been made in reducing stigma around certain conditions; public education and widespread use of effective medications have demystified depression, for instance, making it somewhat less taboo now than it was in past generations. But little progress has been made in removing the stigma around substance use disorders. People with addiction continue to be blamed for their disease. Even though medicine long ago reached a consensus that addiction is a complex brain disorder with behavioral components, the public and even many in healthcare and the justice system continue to view it as a result of moral weakness and flawed character. (NIDA)

The Impact of Stigma on Addiction

Stigma can have a huge impact on addiction. It can negatively affect a number of areas including reducing harm, self-esteem and mental health, and the willingness of the addict to attend treatment and get access to healthcare. Only 2.5 million Americans received any specialized treatment for addiction out of the 21.5 million sufferings. The consequences of stigma on addiction can be very serious, dangerous, and devastating. It can feel fear, anger, and intolerance and cause a person more likely to experience:

  • Delayed treatment
  • Increased mortality and morbidity
  • Worse psychological well-being
  • Social isolation, rejection, and avoidance
  • Harassment, bullying, and violence
  • Poor understanding among family and friends
  • Poor quality of life, disability, and socioeconomic burden
  • Increased feelings of self-doubt and shame

Combating the stigma around addiction requires continuing to try and educate the public about substance abuse and mental health disorders is the only way this is ever going to get better. Addicts are misunderstood. All we want is for people to be kind, compassionate, and understanding when it comes to our disease.

Treatment for Drug Addiction

Evoke Wellness at Cohasset offers cutting-edge addiction treatment programs. Our facilities in South Florida are committed to helping clients throughout the whole treatment experience. Our premier medical detox will help you get through the detox process comfortably and onto residential treatment under our professional care. You don’t have to suffer any longer. Let Evoke Wellness assist you on the road to long-lasting recovery. Call us today at (617) 917-3485 to connect around the clock with our admissions department.