An individual struggling with addiction often finds the most dangerous part, not the actual addiction itself, but the stigma associated with it as a result of it.
When people are referred to as “stoners” or “junkies,” it comes as no surprise to them that they are doing drugs every day. Most people in society think that those who have substance abuse disorders have a character flaw or are weak. Therefore, many think that they are better off without it. People with alcohol addiction are thought to be able to stop drinking at any moment if they want to. Furthermore, stigma also suggests that individuals who engage in heroin abuse are simply seeking a way to make instant money and stay unemployed as all they want to do is get high. Unfortunately, it is important to note that this kind of thinking simply is not accurate, which leads to misconceptions about the nature of addiction, affecting people who are not seeking necessary help.
People have a disproportionately negative perception or have stigma of someone suffering from a chronic disease, like diabetes. However when they experience a drug problem, they are often thought of as being bad, rather than nice and good. In a 2011 survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University, researchers found that 62 percent of participants are willing to work closely with someone who is suffering from mental illness and stigma, as opposed to just 22 percent of those suffering from substance abuse1. In the real world, it is no secret that, in the majority of cases, alcohol and substance abuse is co-occurring with or associated with mental health issues.
Why The Stigma Is a Menace
Societal stigmas against addiction can as a result make individuals feel worse about their addictions instead of seeking help, and this then results in them hiding their addiction even more. Often times because of the stigma around addiction, individuals will be depressed, isolated and use drugs more frequently. It has therefore been found that less than ten percent of people with substance abuse disorders seek help.
The cycle of shame and secrecy that often occurs can give way to a drug overdose. Individuals who abuse drugs to cope with an addiction will gradually develop a toleration to that substance as their body adapts to it. With increased drug dose, the same effect is achieved. When a person ceases to abuse drugs in the same way as before, their body is no longer capable of handling large amounts of them. The individual having stigma may run the risk of having a drug overdose. The body cannot cope with so many drugs, and serious health consequences may ensue.
Who Is Assisting in Breaking the Stigma?
Thanks to countless individuals and organizations, we are working to keep the stigma surrounding addiction at bay. A critical aspect in addressing the problem of addiction is clarifying the definition of the term. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction is not a character flaw, but a medical condition that manifests as compulsive activity for drug seeking and consumption, despite detrimental effects.3 Addiction is neither a personality trait nor a character defect.
As a result of the tough economic times we’re experiencing, there is a better understanding of the need for a sober society. In 2010, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed. It states that insurance plans in the United States must cover mental stigma or substance abuse treatments in order for such services to be provided.
As a result, every insurance carrier is required by law to offer coverage for substance abuse treatment.4 Thus, individuals struggling with addiction can have access to treatment. There are many insurance policies that provide limited coverage for stigma treatment, yet it is an important step for individuals to get the treatment they need.
How to End Stigma Today?
It has been disturbing to realize that for many individuals it is often a crisis or other health issue that triggers them to seek professional treatment.
In such cases, the addiction or stigma problem is usually quite deeply entrenched. The best way to avoid these challenges is to change the way we talk about addiction, removing prejudices and reducing shame and guilt.
It is often important to break down these barriers by keeping the lines of communication open, in order to create strong relationships based on honesty and trust. It is essential that stigma individuals feel trust once they have established the type of relationship that leads to them feeling comfortable seeking help.
Despite the stereotype that stigma is the most dangerous part of addiction, it gives us hope because we can change it. Change may not happen overnight, but with some diligence, we can be aware of ourselves and those in our community, regardless of what they are going through.
Stigma is More Dangerous than Addiction
You know! Addiction is a disease. A disease becomes worse if not taken care of properly at the proper time. So, if a victim hides a disease, it can cause stigma in itself. Another aspect is that people often hide their illnesses due to stimga because of negative societal pressure. If this condition is persistent throughout the disease period, it may end up dying to the victim. In drug addicts, the victims feel depression and may or may not feel fit for social activities. This can lead them to isolation. Hence, isolation is the root cause of additional substance dependency. So, the problem worsens with time if not taken proper care of at the appropriate time. That is the main reason “less than ten stigma people out of hundred go to doctor or specialist for help.”
As we discussed, the cause of developing the habit of taking an overdose of drugs in the addicts. Overdose can be hazardous in every case, which can cause stigma, severe injury or even death to the victims. The habit of an overdose in the addicts worsens with the passage of time and with increased isolation. Addiction to the substance leads to overdose, and once the addiction developed, the victims need more and more medications to satisfy the need. This is the worse situation for the addicts. In this condition, if the victim can not take the drug for a short period, they would need to overdose. So, if they take overdose more frequently, the body can not manage to process this significant volume of drug and thus fails, and severe issues happen to the stigma victims.
Awareness About Stigma: Who Is There To Help Against Stigma
As addiction to some substance is a disease, so responsible people have made NGOs and organizations to help those who do not hide as they want to get rid of it. Understanding the danger of ‘stigmas” associated with addiction to drugs, they try to spread words. These organizations and NGOs work to reach those drug addicts who are in isolation as they are in more danger than those who are mentally prepared to get rid of it. As those who are willing to go to a specialist, they have developed a stigma against the addiction, and they know how dangerous overdose is and how to be free from it. That is why these types of organizations and NGOs focus more on those addicts who are in isolation. “Drug abuse is an accumulating, recurring brain disorder marked by obsessive opioid finding and use amid negative effects of stigma,” according to a national authority (NIDA). Now, we are in a position to say that the people who say that “addiction to a drug is personality failure” are wrong. We can say that it is a disease related to the mental process which can cause danger of stigma upon the victims, and the victims should be called “patients” instead of judging their characters and personality traits.
The government of the United States of America is more advanced in this regard. They have taken major steps towards helping those people who are currently facing the issue of drug addiction and it’s stigma. They have introduced “insurance service” for those NGOs and institutes or organizations working in this area. They named it the “ACA.” This law declares that all the organizations working in this area should be provided with insurance plans to help those who are currently being treated against drug abuse. This law helped people struggling to get rid of the addiction. People dealing with depression now have recourse to care as a result of this statute. Although the volume of care provided depends on the insurance scheme, this is vital in helping stigma patients seek care.
Strategies to Break Stigma of Drug Abuse
Unfortunately, often people wait until they are in a situation or have a medical condition before seeking clinical help. When this occurs, the issue is typically well-established. The good way to stop these difficulties is to improve in the manner we communicate about substance abuse, take advantage of any chance to alleviate stigma and guilt. Knowledge sharing is also the most effective way to eliminate these walls, building strong bonds based on transparency and confidence. Unless this degree of certainty is constructed, individual people are far more inclined to feel at ease and require the help they desire.
Although stigma is undoubtedly the most troubling part of dependency on drugs, the need is to be the most optimistic, and we have the potential to improve it. This transition will not happen immediately, but we should be respectful and supportive of everyone around us on a daily basis, no despite what it is they are going through. Contact us to know more about stigma issue.
Desmon, Stephanie. “Drug Addiction Viewed More Negatively Than Mental Illness, Johns Hopkins Study Shows.” Johns Hopkins University, Accessed May 21, 2018.
Rudy Foster, Claire. “The Stigma Of Addiction Is More Dangerous Than Drug Overdoses.” Huffington Post, Accessed May 21, 2018.
“The Science of Drug Abuse and Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, Accessed May 21, 2018.
“Mental Health and Substance Abuse Coverage.” Healthcare.gov, Accessed on May 21, 2018.
Juman, Richard. “The Deadly Stigma of Addiction.” The Fix, Accessed on May 23, 2018
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.