Stigma can be a barrier between an addict and their recovery. This is because people make assumptions about those with addiction and let that dictate how they treat or talk about others.
Stigma is a false negative viewpoint or belief concerning a topic or group of people that is held regardless of what proves otherwise. Some examples include:
- Addiction is a choice people make.
- Those who use drugs are weak with no willpower.
- Those who abuse drugs or alcohol are selfish and don’t care about other people.
- Those who have addictions are poor and uneducated.
- People with addiction are criminals and should be imprisoned.
- Someone with addiction is unable to contribute to their community.
- There is no help for someone with an addiction.
Names that are often used to describe addicts like “crackhead” or “junkie” are also a stigma. They can be harmful, untrue, and are derogatory.
What Can Cause Stigma?
Some common factors that can contribute to the stigma toward those with addiction include:
- Not being enough education on what really causes addiction.
- People don’t know someone who actually suffers from an addiction problem.
- Having people around them who have the same skewed beliefs.
- Sticking with the idea that complex issues have simple solutions.
- There are similar stigmas about mental health issues just as there are about substance abuse disorders. Many people have co-occurring disorders which mean they have an addiction and mental illness. This only increases the stigmas that people already have.
How Can Stigma Hurt Those With Addiction?
Some adverse effects of stigma include:
- People become afraid to ask for help for fear of being judged.
- It decreases their self-esteem.
- There can be feelings of failure if they can’t quit on their own.
- Depression can follow because of this.
- People might stay away from social situations to keep from being judged for their addiction.
- This can make people feel like they are victims and can never succeed because they will never have respect again.
Stigma toward addiction can also affect the loved ones of those with addiction, like friends and family. It can keep them from seeking help that might support them and encourage them to stay silent.
How To Overcome Stigma
There isn’t a way to outright change societies beliefs overnight. There are some ways to help combat stigma and eventually change people’s viewpoints. These ways include:
- Providing correct information: People love saying things are true when they aren’t. If someone says, they believe addiction is a choice that involves willpower direct them to the medical definition.
- Offer compassion instead of judgment: try to help those in recovery with small acts of kindness when you can to show that not all people believe the same things.
- Reach out to your loved ones who may have an addiction: Let them know that you are there for them and want to help in any way possible. They need your support to succeed.