The stigma of addiction is a very real thing. People still put addicts into a category of people to look down upon. They have an image in their head that an addict is a loser, homeless, with no direction in life. The truth is that addicts come in all shapes and sizes, socioeconomic backgrounds and races.

This kind of stigma is a very dangerous thing. People believe from a young age that addicts are terrible people who do terrible things. People who have never had addiction touch their lives look down upon addicts thinking it could never happen to them. Addicts, on the other hand, suffer shame and continue in their drug addiction alone and scared. These addicts don’t seek treatment even when they absolutely need to.

To avoid the stigma of addiction, people avoid treatment, avoid asking for help, suffer from bad self esteem, and put themselves in further danger and risk. The only thing this causes is more addiction in our society, more overdoses, and more drug use. It’s a cycle that needs to be broken in order to repair it.

What Caused the Stigma of Addiction

It’s crazy to think about how accepted it is to drink at happy hour or take painkillers for a sprained ankle. However, the moment a person slips into drinking too much or getting hooked on pills, the acceptance disappears. This isn’t to say it is ok to partake in excessive behavior, but it is the view of the people doing it that needs to change.

Something changes in the way a person is perceived when they begin to drink or use drugs in excess. Others assume that they lack self control, dignity, and a knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. These people also assume that such a thing could never happen to them. The fact is that it can happen to anyone.

Ending the Stigma

Like other mental disorders, addiction is something that needs to be more widely accepted as something that happens to people. It isn’t always a choice. It is only when people start to realize this that addicts will be more willing to get the help they need.

Addiction should not be a secret. It’s important to ask for help when you need it, and it is equally important for people who think a loved one is in addiction to speak up when they think there is a problem.

Getting addiction treatment is crucial for people abusing drugs and alcohol. The only other option is death or jail. It’s a harsh reality, but being more open to helping people who need it is one of the best ways we can put an end to the epidemic of addiction.

 

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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