The Stigma Surrounding Addiction
by Sarah from DrugRehab.com February 2017
Why Is There Stigma?
When an individual feels shamed by others because of a particular circumstance or quality, they may be feeling the effects of stigma. Addiction is not a choice. And those who believe it’s a moral problem may be unaware that addiction is a chronic brain disease with devastating effects.
Unlike people with other chronic health conditions, people recovering from addiction are frequently blamed for their problems. For example, society does not shame someone with high blood pressure for eating french fries, but a person recovering from an alcohol use disorder may feel judged by others or even be criticized by friends for turning down a drink at a party.
The stigma of addiction often creates shame, guilt, and fear, which can prevent millions of people from getting treatment and reaching recovery.
Those who are discriminated against or rejected because of a substance use disorder can experience feelings of depression or anxiety. These feelings can worsen addiction or lead to high rates of relapse.
Your Words Matter
Choosing words that do not create feelings of guilt or shame can greatly reduce the stigma surrounding addiction.
Rather than using words that imply a person with a substance use disorder has committed immoral or criminal acts, here is a list of addiction-related terms to use instead.
How Can We Reduce Stigma?
Recovery is a lifelong process, and those working to overcome addiction require support from others in order to be successful.
Change might not happen overnight, but there are things you can do to reduce stigma and promote social inclusion in the community. Choosing to treat people affected by addiction with respect is the first step.
Take the time to learn about the science of mental health conditions and educate others who have misconceptions about substance use disorders and mental illnesses. Don’t forget to encourage people in recovery to share their stories with others. Not only can sharing stories be inspiring and educational to others, but it can also be therapeutic to the individual telling the story. These small changes can stop stigma before it starts.
Stigma creates shame and guilt, which can lead to isolation. Eliminating the stigma of addiction is crucial to allowing those in recovery lead successful, substance-free lives.