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Why is There So Much Stigma Surrounding Addiction?

Millions of people in the United States live with the effects of addiction. Without treatment, addiction often gets worse and more challenging to treat. Many people living with addiction face severe harm to their mental and physical health, the loss of jobs and relationships, and legal or financial difficulties. 

Many barriers prevent people from getting substance abuse treatment when they need it. One significant barrier is the stigma of addiction. Addiction stigma can prevent communities from offering high-quality addiction treatment services and support for people in recovery. It can keep people from asking for help when they need it for fear of being judged or rejected. 

The stigma of addiction can be hard to overcome, but getting treatment can be life-saving. If you or someone you love need addiction treatment or support during recovery, contact the compassionate staff at Mandala Healing Center today. 

Understanding the Stigma of Addiction

A stigma means a set of negative beliefs or attitudes about a specific group or thing. Addiction stigma describes the negative beliefs and attitudes toward people living with addiction. 

But where does this stigma come from? Substance abuse and addiction can often result in many behaviors or actions that are considered unacceptable. Many people may associate criminal activity, unpredictable behavior, physical and mental illness, poor job performance, and relationship problems with addiction. When addicted people experience these consequences of addiction, they may feel shame–and others may judge them harshly.

Stigma affects addicted people and their families and communities by causing shame, poor self-worth, and decreased self-esteem. It can prevent people from seeking help when they need it and keeps families and communities from healing from the effects of addiction.

Addiction stigma can lead people to lose hope that people can recover from the condition. It causes people to feel ashamed for something that isn’t in their control and can make others less likely to offer help. The stigma of addiction often acts as a barrier between addicted people and the support they need. 

How Does Addiction Stigma Hurt People?

The World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledges that stigmas can lead to people or groups being excluded or experiencing human rights violations. Around the world, stigma directly impacts people with addiction and others close to them. 

Stigma harms people with addiction, their families and loved ones, and the communities they live in. It limits people’s opportunities, can prevent people from receiving health care, and can contribute to low self-esteem and self-worth. 

Addiction is often treated as a criminal issue or a moral failing. Even after receiving treatment for addiction, people may carry the burden and judgment of this condition for the rest of their life. 

Stigma is believed to cause or contribute to the following:

  • Lower educational opportunities and achievement
  • Fewer safe, affordable housing options
  • Voting restrictions
  • Access to insurance

The stigma of addiction can prevent people who need treatment from getting the help they need to overcome it. Many people may fear discrimination and judgment so much that they continue to live with untreated addiction and all its consequences. 

In addition to altering the lives of people with substance abuse, preconceived ideas about addiction can impact others’ perceptions of addicted people. Addiction stigma can cause people to think of addiction as a choice, a criminal behavior, or a character flaw. Investing money, time, and resources into treating and supporting people with addiction is not popular or a priority. Social services, treatment centers, and government programs remain underfunded and ineffective. 

The result? Only about 1 in 10 addicted people in the United States get addiction treatment. Millions of people live with the effects of addiction in their lives, families, and communities. The worse our country’s addiction problem gets, the more deeply-rooted addiction stigma becomes. 

Reducing the Stigma of Addiction

Many organizations and treatment facilities advocate for people with addiction and try to break down the stigma in society. There are several ways they aim to reduce the stigma of addiction. These include:

  • Telling positive stories about people in recovery
  • Highlighting recovery success stories
  • Focusing on the humanity of people in recovery–their personalities, achievements, and interests in addition to their struggles and accomplishments in recovery
  • Creating positive spaces for recovery to occur
  • Educating healthcare providers on recognizing substance abuse and treating addicted people with dignity and respect
  • Focusing on the language used when talking about addiction and those affected
  • Addressing stereotypes and myths about addiction

Everyone can help reduce the stigma of addiction by learning as much as possible about addiction and recovery. Read positive stories about people in recovery and listen non-judgmentally to people in your life who are in recovery. 

Changing how you think and talk about addiction and recovery can be an excellent first step in reducing the harmful effects of addiction stigma.

Get Help Now

At Mandala Healing Center, we understand how harmful stigma can be to people struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. During treatment, clients are taken on a journey of healing through complete immersion into evidence-based clinical modalities, multifaceted alternative therapies, and expert medical management, allowing them to fully detox and recover from drug and alcohol addictions. 

Through a program of care designed to encourage change, a foundation is created that allows clients to find their higher purpose and reclaim their lives. For more information on starting a treatment program or finding support during recovery, reach out to the compassionate staff at Mandala Healing Center today.