Apr 29, 2024

Coping With the Stigma of Addiction

Addiction is a disease that can affect anyone. Each person who has battled addiction knows that there are many challenges and obstacles as they navigate recovery. One of these challenges is the stigma associated with drug addiction. Coping with the stigma of addiction can feel overwhelming at times, but it doesn’t have to control your life. 

We’re here to help you and others understand that addiction is a disease, not a character flaw. Stigma shouldn’t stand in your way as a barrier to long-term recovery. 

Addiction Can Affect Anyone 

Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone of any age, economic status, upbringing, or social status. Some people believe that addiction can’t affect them or touch someone they care about, but chances are that most people know someone who has experienced some type of addiction, or substance misuse, or has been touched by it. 

According to the CDC, one in seven Americans reports having personally experienced a substance use disorder. This number doesn’t take into consideration the percentage of individuals who don’t report their experience with substance use. 

People who have experienced addiction can struggle daily with stigma. This stigma is often rooted in a combination of believing in inaccurate stereotypes and a lack of education in what addiction is, and not understanding that it’s a legitimate disease. 

Why Is Addiction Stigmatized?

The main reason that stigma exists around addiction is a lack of understanding of addiction as a disease. The American Medical Association declared alcoholism to be an illness in 1956 and designated addiction as a disease in 1987. 

Addiction is a condition that requires treatment from a qualified addiction treatment center. Addiction isn’t a weakness or a character flaw, and it doesn’t make someone a bad person. Public and societal perception, along with how addiction is portrayed in the media also contributes to the stigma surrounding addiction. 

Types of Stigma Associated with Addiction 

Learning how to deal with the stigma of addiction begins by understanding the areas in which stigma prevails, even today. There are three main types of stigma associated with drug addiction and alcoholism. 

Self Stigma: This is the acceptance of negative messages and stereotypes about people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, and then applying those messages and stereotypes to oneself. This can cause the individual to feel shame, embarrassment, and low self-esteem, along with being resistant to getting the help they need. 

Social Stigma: This is society’s general stigma surrounding addiction, formed by media stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding the disease. This type of stigma can be placed not only on the individual but also on their family and loved ones. 

Structural Stigma: This type of stigma can stand in the way of individuals receiving the medical or mental health care they need, along with experiencing difficulties in transitioning back into normal life after addiction treatment. Workplace policies may cause someone to delay seeking treatment for fear of job loss or career repercussions. Another example is someone receiving a lower quality of medical care due to perceptions around the person’s substance use.  

Why Is It Important to Reduce Stigma

It’s important that we work toward reducing the stigma of addiction on both a personal and societal level. The stigma associated with drug addiction and alcoholism can prevent someone from receiving the help they need and create a challenging barrier to recovery. 

It also creates barriers to medical and mental health care, employment, and relationships. When not properly addressed, stigma can affect nearly every facet of a person’s life. 

Stigma is a serious problem, but it doesn’t define who you are. The first step to fighting back against the stigma is to reach out for the addiction treatment you need. 

How to Deal with the Stigma of Addiction

If you’re dealing with the stigma of addiction, you’re not alone. It’s challenging but you can overcome it. Dealing with the stigma of addiction begins by empowering yourself through addiction treatment, learning to recognize your self-worth, and recognizing that addiction doesn’t define who you are. 

Acknowledge That Addiction Is a Disease 

The important first step is acknowledging to yourself that addiction is a disease, and it’s one that you’ll live with for the rest of your life, even with lifelong remission. Addiction affects the mind and body on many levels, and being aware of addiction as a chronic disease can allow you to better prepare for and avoid the possibility of relapse.

Helping others learn that addiction is a disease can help change the general mindset about addiction, including who is affected, why it occurs, and how it happens.

Reach Out

Don’t suffer silently with addiction alone. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides a great tool to help you find drug or alcohol rehab and support near you. We also encourage you to reach out to us at the Massachusetts Center for Addiction if you need help or have questions about addiction treatment. 

Join a Support Group

Being among others who are also working on overcoming their addictions can be a very therapeutic experience. Joining a support group can help you realize that addiction doesn’t discriminate and that you’re not alone. Support groups are also a good venue for sharing personal stories of discrimination and stigma, with the opportunity to discover new ways you can fight against it. 

Be Honest with Loved Ones 

Stigma exists when it’s not challenged by the truth. If you’re struggling with addiction, be honest with your loved ones about what is going on and how you’re feeling. Family therapy services are available to help heal. These therapies also help dispel myths and help your loved ones understand that addiction is a disease. 

Don’t Let Stigma Get In the Way of Seeking Addiction Treatment 

Self-care is important when fighting against the stigma of addiction. A major component of this is seeking the addiction treatment you need to beat this disease. At Massachusetts Center for Addiction, we believe in empowering the individual to overcome addiction and recognize their self-worth through a comprehensive and holistic approach to addiction treatment. Contact the Massachusetts Center for Addiction today at 844-486-0671.

MCA Staff
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