Feb 15, 2023

Coping With the Stigma of Addiction

Coping with the stigma of addiction can be stressful and cause many mental health issues for those suffering from an addiction. However, taking steps to keep your mental health a priority can help. While more people are beginning to recognize that addiction isn’t a moral failing, you shouldn’t let those that don’t understand be a barrier to your recovery.

Understanding the Chronic Disease of Addiction

Although addiction is societally viewed as a result of poor choices, the medical community has recognized addiction as a disease since the 1980s. This started a long process of destigmatizing alcohol abuse or alcohol use disorders (AUD) and substance use disorders (SUD), but progress has been slow. Stigma is still a large part of suffering from addiction. Despite being recognized as a disease, it’s still managed and treated very differently from other medical conditions

Effective addiction treatment requires recognition that it is not a temporary disease but rather a chronic one. Addiction is treated as a short-term issue in healthcare, with treatment lasting several weeks to months. However, this leads to repeated episodes of addiction requiring treatment before a person can finally sustain their long-term recovery. 

Understanding that addiction is a chronic, lifelong disease without a cure is crucial. This understanding is needed to design the right treatment plan. It is also important to support individuals, even after they have made progress during a particular episode of treatment.

Addiction Can Affect Anyone

No one is immune to addiction. While many people like to think that it’s something that could never happen to them, everyone is at risk of becoming addicted to something. It isn’t just people who have made bad choices, have too much or too little money, or have had hard lives that suffer from addiction. 

Many of these stereotypes are rooted in the incorrect belief that addiction is a choice. The associated stigma can be a significant barrier to treatment. However, addiction can happen to anyone regardless of their life circumstances.

Coping With the Stigma of Addiction

For some people, coping with stigma can be more difficult than dealing with addiction. It can make a person avoid seeking care when needed, even for non-drug-related problems. However, there are ways to cope with stigma that allow you to participate in the recovery process.

Understand the Science Behind Addiction

Grounding the discussion about addiction in science and facts can help remove emotion from the conversation. This can help remove self-directed guilt and shame and make it more difficult for someone to blame someone suffering for something they can’t control. It also allows you to make better progress toward your recovery. By understanding what happens in the brain during addiction, you can start to overcome self-stigma. 

Talk to Someone

A large part of stigma’s impact is making people feel isolated and afraid to reach out because of a fear of judgment or rejection. However, talking to someone, whether a friend, family member or someone else, can make you feel less alone and provide hope that things can improve. If you’re trying to stop using drugs or alcohol, talking to a licensed professional is essential to finding the best place for a detox program and more long-term support. ‘

Join a 12-Step Program or Similar

Twelve-step programs and other support groups are designed to connect you with others in similar situations. They can offer support and understanding that friends and family who haven’t experienced addiction may be unable to. They can also provide a source of accountability for those that don’t already have one. 

Knowing you aren’t the only one experiencing these things and seeing the variety of people there can reduce the stigma that only undesirable people suffer from addiction.

Be Honest With Yourself and Your Loved Ones

While the fear of judgment and rejection can make it difficult to be open with others, sharing how you feel can reduce the stigma you feel. It can also help those around you better understand what you’re going through and provide the support you need. It can also help you set realistic goals and expectations for yourself.

Practice Self-Care

You can’t let addiction’s stigma keep you from caring for yourself. Self-care can help you maintain your self-esteem and find the motivation to seek treatment and work to improve your life no matter what others say.

What If the Stigma Becomes Too Much?

While progress is being made to accept addiction as a disease and not a character flaw, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding having an addiction. If the stigma becomes too much for you to handle, some places can help. Seeking care at a rehab facility or addiction center, such as Massachusetts Center for Addiction, can provide the support you need to start your recovery without fear of judgment. 

Addiction centers utilize interdisciplinary teams of specialists to provide holistic care. They offer different options for treatment depending on the level of care you need, including partial hospitalization for those needing more intensive treatment. Treatment at an addiction center includes everything from managing withdrawal symptoms to offering dual diagnosis for any co-occurring mental health disorders to supporting long-term recovery with aftercare programs. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and facing the stigma, you don’t have to go through everything alone. Some centers can help you get the support and care you need. So if you’re ready to get started, reach out for a personalized assessment and find your path to recovery today.

MCA Staff
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