Stigma is defined as a set of overlying negative attitudes about a particular group of people, such as those suffering from addiction. It is an attitude that judges people not by who they are but by the drugs they take. Although most of the families in the US know or have at least one person suffering from addiction, myths, and misconceptions about people suffering from addiction run wild. Several studies show that addiction is not a choice but an illness that may be dependent on environmental factors and genetic vulnerability.
Harms of Stigma and Addiction
As our nation slowly evolves from its dark history of criminalizing addiction and isolating victims, the effects of stigma can be easily downplayed. Stigma is a serious issue, and the view that stigma is worse than an overdose is widely considered in addiction recovery circles.
Negative Impacts of stigma include:
- Keeps people from reaching out for help- The dark cloud that hangs over addiction creates guilt and shame in the addicts who then don’t reach out for help. It shows in the statistics, only one in ten addicts here in the US seeks help from addiction treatment centers. This significantly impacts the fight against addiction and affects the life of the addict as they go down the never-ending spiral of guilt and further gratification from drugs and alcohol.
- It Impacts Self Esteem- Stigmatization of addicts may lead to anxiety, depression, a feeling of emptiness, and guilt. This causes a loss of hope. It makes the addicts feel defeated by the addiction, and many even give up on rehabilitation before they even start it.
- Relationships with Others– Misconceptions and misinformation about drug use impact the relations between addicts and society at large. 80% of addicts have reported having been stigmatized at least once in their lives. Studies have also shown that people are less willing to have drug addicts as their neighbors, workmates, or partners. This mentality exists although drug addicts are law-abiding, taxpaying, and voting citizens just like everybody else.
How to Fight Stigmatization
The fight against stigmatization has only just begun. Everybody can play a role in reducing the scope and effects of stigma by doing the following.
Stigma is fuelled by a lack of knowledge or understanding of addiction and its nature. Many people in society view addiction as a choice or lack of moral compass. This attitude can be reduced by educating the public about addiction. The fact that addiction is a disease, just like any other, should also be stressed out in public circles.
2. Speak Out
Most of the misconceptions and the attitudes that perpetuate stigma are relayed in our homes, churches, schools, and workplaces. Unfortunately, nobody is always willing to debunk them before they cause further harm. It is crucial to always speak up against such mentalities that degrade people suffering from addiction.
3. Creating Awareness
Much of the general public is unaware of the effects of stigma on addiction. Raising awareness at our homes, schools, and churches can go a long way into reducing the impact of stigma. This can also change the attitudes of people towards those suffering from drug abuse and addiction in general.
The weight of stigma is felt not only on those suffering from addiction but their families, friends, and communities at large. It is up to us to stand up against this menace to secure a healthy tomorrow for future generations. A future that allows them to live among people be treated as equals and have access to treatment.
Get Help at Our Fresno Addiction Treatment Center
Here at First Steps Recovery, we give hope to people suffering from addiction. Based in Fresno, California, we help addicts, and their families beat stigma and depression and offer a pathway to recovery from addiction. Contact us today and let us be part of your journey.