People with substance use disorder have shown tremendous improvement with rehabilitation. Yet, many people with this condition still decline treatment. According to a survey conducted by SAMHSA in 2021, only about 6% of Americans above 12 years received medical treatment for substance use disorder. One of the reasons for this poor turnout is stigma.
Stigma or discrimination refers to negative beliefs, perceptions, and stereotypes held against those with Substance use disorder (SUD). It is a significant barrier to overcoming the problems of substance misuse. When people with this condition are judged unfairly or labeled in a derogatory manner, it can harm their recovery and the chance to live normally. Unfortunately, this is what many people with SUD suffer in today’s world.
Discrimination doesn’t emerge because of skin color, position, or affluence. It’s deeply rooted in the notion that addiction is a product of one’s personal choice and lack of willpower. The discriminators believe a person with SUD is weak and has a moral failing. Stigma is still high in every sphere of life and has caused devastating effects on individuals with SUD. Any effort to address substance use disorder must include plans to overcome stigmatization.
Effects of Stigma on an Individual’s Recovery
Several pieces of medical research have shown the devastating effects of stigma on a person’s addiction recovery journey. Discrimination is detrimental to the health of people with SUD. Here are some ways it affects them;
- It damages their well-being and interferes with the quality of medical care and support they receive.
- In many cases, stigma can result in self-blame and guilt. People with SUD can internalize negative views projected by society, leading to low self-esteem. It can hinder motivation and willingness to seek medical help.
- The fear of being criticized or discriminated again can limit access to help.
- Individuals with SUD may socially isolate themselves from family, friends, and society because of rejection. It can exacerbate loneliness, which may fuel substance misuse.
- Stigma may also affect one’s chances of getting employment or integrating into society.
How to Overcome the Stigma of Addiction
Overcoming the stigma of addiction is a crucial step toward helping those with SUD complete their recovery. Fighting this discrimination needs joint efforts from everyone, including the government and health agencies.
Discrimination around substance abuse can be detrimental, as it lowers an individual’s self-worth and opportunities to become better in society. Here are ways to overcome this addiction stigma:
Education and Awareness
Promoting awareness and publishing more accurate educational resources about addiction can dispel the myths and misconceptions about it. It will foster empathy and understanding in society.
Avoid Derogatory Terms
Revising the terms we use when discussing substance abuse can change society’s negative perception of people with SUD. Studies reveal using person-first language can reduce stigma by focusing on the individual. Research also shows using terms such as “substance abuser,” “addict,” “alcoholic,” and “junkie” is more likely to worsen discrimination.
Instead of those derogatory phrases that perpetuate stigma, use ones like, “person with substance use disorder” for “an addict or drunk.” Use “addiction” for “drug habit.”
Sharing Personal Stories
Individuals who have recovered from addiction should be encouraged to share their stories. These narratives can change the stereotypic landscape and prove that recovery works.
You need to understand that substance use disorder is a complex disease that doesn’t emerge due to a lack of willpower or moral failing. Therefore, show empathy and use a non-judgmental approach when interacting with individuals with addiction.
Individuals recovering from SUD may feel lonely due to a lack of support from friends and community. Including individuals in recovery within the community, such as support groups, can make them feel connected to society. They should also be included in communities with employment opportunities and housing assistance. This way, they feel accepted and supported.
Increase Access to Treatment Facilities
Access to treatment centers can foster recovery and remove the fear of judgment or stigma. Therefore, access to evidence-based treatment programs and support services for persons with SUD should be heavily advocated. When treatment is readily available, people can seek medical treatment without discrimination.
Collaboration and Partnerships
Collaboration between healthcare providers, policymakers, and world bodies should be fostered to address addiction stigma collectively. Policy reforms that prioritize public health over punitive measures should be implemented. A synergy such as this can create comprehensive approaches that fight against societal stigma. In addition, it can improve the outcomes for those with SUD.
The media can play a massive role in overcoming drug recovery stigma. Active participation and responsible media coverage can shape people’s perceptions of addiction and correct the ills of the condition.
Practice Self-Care and Accept Who You Are
Accepting you have an addiction is tough, but that’s the reality. That isn’t your fault. However, you must understand that it is treatable. Accepting this will shape your mindset and push you to recover.
For individuals in recovery, practicing self-care is essential. You must surround yourself with a supportive network, especially those knowledgeable about your condition. This includes your medical professional, family, and friends. Also, engaging in activities that promote physical and mental well-being can help your growth and instill confidence to overcome stigma.
Overcoming the stigma of addiction needs a collective effort from everyone, including the government and individuals. By challenging stereotypes and changing negative perceptions about addiction, we can create a supportive environment for those affected by substance use disorder.
Speaking of a supportive environment, CFC ensures individuals with addiction receive adequate aftercare support to foster recovery. We use a unique approach that provides a tailored recovery experience. You can visit us at 260 Casino Drive, Farmingdale, NJ, or call us at 1-833-300-HOPE.