The Stigma of Addiction and Addiction Stigma Quotes

Coping with the Stigma of Addiction

Untreated drug and alcohol use is responsible for thousands of deaths and has affected many more lives. And although healthcare has treatment centers with effective rehabilitation tools such as medications for alcohol or opioid use disorder, many people don’t even want to look for help because of the stigma surrounding addictions.

The term ‘addict’ accompanies shame and harsh judgments. Addiction is often looked down on and viewed as wicked and immoral. Although stigma is a problem with various health conditions, especially amongst people with mental illness, studies show stigma is much more probable for people who use drugs.

coping with the stigma of addiction

What Is the Stigma of Addiction?

Stigma is defined as a mark of disgrace. The stigma of addiction is people’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that develop into judgmental prejudices and discrimination against people with substance use disorders and mental health problems.

Addictions are attached to feelings of shame, criticism, and a sense of eternal judgment by society. But, the stereotype of an ‘addict’ needs to be understood the same way a stereotype is defined— a category based on an oversimplified generalization.

Types of Stigmas

The National Institute of Health (NIH) recognizes three types of stigma:

  • Structural stigma – Discrimination and prejudice demonstrated in public and private institutions, including government and legal systems, employers, educational institutions, healthcare and treatment systems, the criminal justice system, including law enforcement, jails, and the courts
  • Public stigma (social stigma) – The general public’s negative judgments and attitudes, including subgroups such as police officers, judges, and first responders, that are sustained by structural stigma in laws and policies that support these prejudices and discriminations
  • Self-stigma – As the discrimination related to public stigma becomes more apparent, people with mental and substance use disorders internalize it and apply it to themselves, creating psychologically harmful feelings

The Effects of Stigma

The stigma of addiction affects the individual with a substance use problem and the individual’s family, friends, and loved ones. Seeking treatment is avoided for fear of acknowledging the problem and is usually perpetuated by family members because of embarrassment and shame.

Even when the signs of drug addiction are obvious, only one in 10 Americans with a substance use disorder receives substance abuse treatment.

Studies have shown that the public has significantly more negative attitudes towards ‘addicts’ or ‘substance abusers’ than those with mental health issues. Drug addiction is treated like a sub-category of those affected by mental illness because a lot of people perceive people with addictions as dangerous and unpredictable rather than sick.

Certain mental health conditions, such as depression, have managed to reduce the stigma, making it less taboo than in the past, but people with addiction are still blamed for their illness.

The general public, the criminal justice system, and even those in health care continue to see people who struggle with addiction and substance abuse as evil and flawed by choice instead of what it is— individuals suffering from a disease with complicated behavioral health elements.

addiction stigma quotes

Addiction Stigma Quotes

Stigma surrounds addiction, though only people suffering from it or those in recovery know and feel its effects. These quotes help demonstrate how common and harmful it can be:

“I suppose they think you’re the sort of person going to steal their VCR … cause of that typical image of a drug addict as some sort of homeless, stinking kind of shambling person who can barely speak and stuff, and I was never like that even when I was using, but that’s the impression.” – Adam*

“I mean there’s a time in my life where I’d be paranoid about sitting around other people’s possessions you know ‘cause if anything went missing generally nine out of ten people in the room would be dismissed and I’d get the blame … there’s a lot of discomfort within yourself after coming out of that lifestyle or existence really.” – Tom*

“I struggle with people offering me help, I still think I’m not worthy of it ‘cause they … everyone’s been offering me to help move and I said ‘no, no, it’s alright man I’ll get a taxi or I’ll carry it or whatever,’ and yeah the guy … the guy at the addiction center said the other day he sees it as me being … me myself thinking I’m not worthy of anyone’s help.” – Graham*

“I know a lot of my heavy using was because I was ashamed of what I was doing and it didn’t … commonsense approach would be to not use. But in my case, it was, use more so ‘I could forget how bad I was feeling about myself.” – Brigitte*

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to be happy with yourself and I’m not happy with myself, I don’t look in the mirror and say I love myself, I don’t even like myself, I self-loathe myself, I hate myself, I hate what I’ve done to myself and done to others by doing it to myself.” – Tim*

*NIH Stigma and Self-Stigma in Addiction

End Addiction Stigma

When people realize that drug and alcohol addiction can affect anyone of any age or social status, we can take the first step to fight the stigma of addiction. Addressing the lack of understanding by educating society and affluent groups about substance use disorders and treatment helps avoid misconceptions and negative judgments to help people advocate against stigma together.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse highlights changing behavior in three ways to reduce stigma:

  • Words matter. Try to use language that isn’t stigmatizing when talking to people with a substance use disorder or who have struggled with addiction and their loved ones. ‘Addict,’ ‘alcoholic,’ or ‘drug abuser’ are examples of stigmatizing language.
  • Educating public health professionals. Clinicians are the first point of contact for people with substance use disorders and should do everything possible to lower the potential for stereotypes and drug addiction stigma.
  • Use person-first language. Person-first language replaces negative undertones with a neutral tone and separates the person from their condition. For instance, ‘person with an alcohol use disorder’ or ‘person in recovery or long-term recovery.’
addiction stigma

Addressing Stigma

Addiction treatment facilities that focus on addressing the stigma of addiction by integrating it into their treatment programs and support groups help a person’s rehabilitation immensely to recognize and challenge stigma after treatment.

Northridge Addiction Treatment Center understands the long-term effects of stigma after recovery. We commit to challenge it in every form and leave all our residents equipped to overcome and reject negative stereotypes and labels.

At NATC, we provide around-the-clock medical care and mental health care during detox and all stages of your recovery. Overcoming shame is part of overcoming addiction. Don’t leave substance abuse untreated and address the stigma of addiction today.

Reach out to a NATC admissions specialist to help you begin your journey to recovery.

Find Meaningful Recovery

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