Science has proven that addiction is a disorder that detrimentally affects the brain. The condition affects everything from impulse control to reasoning and decision-making. Yet, the stigma of addiction is very much alive and well. Even worse, the stigma of addiction prevents people from seeking help when they need it.
Seeking treatment for a substance abuse disorder (SUD) already comes with many challenges, but associated stigma adds another complicated layer of fear that can get in the way of asking for help. Therefore, negating stigma can be the key to making sure people who are struggling feel confident enough to seek treatment. Find out more about the stigma of drug addiction and how to beat it below.
The Stigma of Drug Addiction
The number of overdose deaths in the United States is devastating. In just over 20 years, roughly 800,000 people have lost their lives to addiction. Unfortunately, stigma plays a major role in this terrifying number.
The stigma of drug addiction is the act of stereotyping and labeling those who struggle with addiction as people who are weak or simply lack the willpower to stop using substances. In other words, stigma says addiction is a choice rather than a disorder. These astigmatic beliefs stem from misconceptions that addiction is something people are doing to themselves and that treatment is not necessary.
When an addicted individual faces this stigma, they can feel they are not worthy of treatment. They may even feel like others will view them as weak if they can't overcome the struggle on their own. Stigma can come from everyone from family members and friends to some healthcare professionals.
Beating the Stigma of Addiction
While the stigma of addiction can be difficult to combat, some strategies can help. A few ways to beat the stigma include:
- Recognize that treatment is necessary. Push out old and biased beliefs that addiction is a choice and not a verifiable mental health disorder. Educate yourself about how many people overcome addiction through treatment.
- Be an advocate for those who need help. If you know someone who needs help, advocate for them, and encourage them to seek treatment. If you have recovered from SUD, share your experience with those who need help.
- Spread the message that addiction is not a choice. Speak up and speak out in person and on social media to help people understand more about addiction as a disease and why treatment is necessary.
- Use the proper terminologies when speaking on addiction. Certain words and phrases are considered stigmatizing language, such as saying someone with SUD has a “drug habit” or a “problem,” or calling them a “junkie.”
- Get involved. Consider getting involved in efforts to raise awareness about addiction as a disease. For example, some recovery centers host community fundraising initiatives and planned outreach programs that often need volunteers.
Recognizing Addiction as a Disease Is the First Step Toward Overcoming Addiction Stigma
An individual working through addiction can face many hurdles before achieving sobriety. Stigma should not be one of them. Any individual with SUD should be encouraged to seek treatment because addiction is a disorder that can require professional guidance to overcome. If you or a loved one is seeking wholly nonstigmatized, compassionate addiction treatment, Legacy Recovery Center can help. Reach out to learn more about our treatment options.