Although substance use is widespread, it is not always openly discussed due to social stigmas. There are a wide range of addictions with devastating effects, from gambling to food addiction, but substance use tends to be one of the main addictions people shy away from addressing head-on. When people do discuss substance use, it is often in a negative light, with damaging language. Individuals struggling with substance use are aware of the stigmas associated with it, which often make them feel even more ashamed of the challenges they face, leading them to self-isolate instead of asking for help. This stigma must be addressed in order to save lives and make it easier for people to get the help they need.
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The Impact of Stigma and Discrimination
Because a large majority of people are not well informed about addiction, they may assume that individuals struggling with substance use are uneducated or disgraceful, and can overcome their addiction if they just try hard enough. Some people view addiction as a moral failing instead of what it truly is – a symptom of emotional pain and trauma.
This stigma creates a number of obstacles for people struggling with drug or alcohol use to get the help they need – potential employers, friends, family, and healthcare professionals may turn them away simply because they have a history of substance use. Even the fear of the stigma alone makes some people reluctant to ask for help, and the shame associated with it can fuel their addiction even more.
Research shows that most people struggling with addiction never get the help they need – often because it is very difficult for them to obtain it. Private addiction treatment can be expensive even if you have insurance, and treatment covered by government programs may not be available to people when they need it, or for as long as they need it.
The Sources of Stigma and Discrimination
There are many sources of drug-related stigma and discrimination, which usually stem from cultural narratives and familial beliefs. Although some drug use is glamorized by Hollywood films and television shows, there has been a determined effort to associate drug use with violence, poverty, and low-class stereotypes in the news and media.
For example, the so-called War On Drugs in the United States has had a big impact on how people view drug abuse. The War On Drugs began in the 1970s when President Nixon introduced severe penalties and jail time for drug-related crimes and activities, even making possession of certain drugs a felony. Media influences aside, some people are simply uneducated about the nature of addiction, while others may have a negative association with addiction because of their parent’s views and beliefs.
The reality is that harsh legal penalties for selling drugs like marijuana or being in possession of drugs like cocaine stay on a person’s record and can make it very difficult for them to find housing or employment in addition to disqualifying them from certain programs and subsidies. Unless someone comes from a fairly privileged background or has a support network of family and friends to rely on, this discrimination can cause them to fall into poverty, creating a vicious cycle.
Strategies for Combatting Stigma and Discrimination
Education is one of the best ways to combat the stigma and discrimination that surrounds substance use. When people understand that addiction is a treatable condition, much like diabetes or asthma, it is possible to make way for a more compassionate understanding of these matters. Another important strategic step is to implement anti-discrimination policies for employers and housing programs so that people struggling with substance use are treated like human beings with basic respect, dignity, and a higher standard of care.
Organizations such as Shatterproof are on a mission to reduce and remove the stigma around addiction while advocating for better standards of addiction treatment. Years of research show that treating addiction like a crime simply does not work. Doing so fuels the stigma and shame around substance use instead of empowering the millions of people who are affected by addiction to get help. States across the country have also launched initiatives to educate people about addiction, such as the “Beat the Stigma” campaign in Ohio, and the success of Measure 110 in Oregon, which successfully removed any penalties for being found in possession of a drug.
The importance of addressing the stigma and discrimination that people struggling with substance use face cannot be overstated. When we change the way we perceive addiction, we can empower people by making it easier for them to get the help they need instead of punishing them. When people struggling with substance use know that there is compassionate assistance and a supportive community available to them, it is much more likely that they will ask for help.
An awareness of how things can improve is just the first step – but taking inspired action is where you can personally change people’s lives for the better. Get involved in your community – maybe you can host an event about addiction, attend an AA meeting, or offer help to friends and family who are going through a difficult time.
Breaking Down The Stigma Surrounding Addiction With Ethan Crossing
In conclusion, addiction is a complex disease that affects millions of people worldwide. It is time to break the stigma surrounding addiction and view it as a health issue that requires treatment and support. At Ethan Crossing Addiction Treatment, we understand the challenges of addiction and are here to help individuals achieve lasting recovery. With empathy, understanding, and evidence-based treatment approaches, we work with individuals to overcome addiction and build a fulfilling life in sobriety. Let us all work together to break the stigma surrounding addiction and promote a culture of acceptance, compassion, and healing.