Shame and stigma about substance addiction are common but harmful barriers to treatment. Addiction-related shame and guilt can also perpetuate the disease. It is time that society raises awareness about combatting such stigma so that more people can get help and feel supported in recovery.
The Prevalence of Stigma
The word “stigma” refers to widespread negative attitudes about a certain trait. Addiction-related stigma characterizes the condition as a personal moral weakness or a shameful decision rather than a medical condition like other diseases. Such shame-ridden characterization does injustice to the fact that addiction is a very complex disease that often involves genetic and social factors.
There are reasons why addiction-related stigma is still prevalent in society. First of all, most people do not have scientific knowledge about what causes substance addiction. Secondly, in this scarcity of knowledge, the media has negatively portrayed people who suffer from substance addiction. These media stories often frame addiction as the fault of individuals. Even some medical professionals may succumb to such media narratives.
The Vicious Cycle of Addiction and Stigma
Stigmatization of addiction may create a vicious cycle for people with this health condition. The shame and guilt create more stress which propels them to use substances to relieve the stress from widespread stigma. Individuals may be more likely to keep the problem to themselves without reaching out to family and friends for support. Behind the deception and lies is actually a very fragile method of self-protection.
Many people with substance addiction have co-occurring mental health problems. Because there is also a widespread stigma in society toward people with mental health issues, some are likely to suffer from two layers of stigmatization at the same time.
People may tend to blame themselves and feel unworthy of recovery. The motivation toward seeking treatment is low or nonexistent.
Identifying and Dealing with Stigma
People are battling stigma when they fear negative labels from family and friends. This leads to self-isolation and feeling powerless to change. To reverse the effects of stigma, one needs to understand how stigma forms.
People need to actively seek professional treatment for both addiction and mental health conditions. In addition, they need to refuse to be isolated but instead reach out and connect with supportive family and friends.
The combatting of stigma needs to be a collective action. Local groups exist that campaign against stigma. People can practice saying no to negative judgment, labels, or false narratives. Support groups can be a safe place to share feelings about doing this work. Addiction and mental health problems should be addressed as diseases just like other chronic illnesses.
Reversing the Narrative
Recovering individuals have the power to reshape the narrative about addiction recovery. They can tell stories about personal growth, rediscovery, and resilience. People should try to be open in sharing the reasons why people develop substance use problems. Media biases and inaccuracies should be addressed. People with substance use problems should be portrayed as human beings.
A strong and mutually-supportive recovery community can be the best testimonial to the wider society about what a genuine human community looks like. Family members of recovering individuals are in a unique place to show support for combatting stigma rather than considering addiction a shameful reputation. Speaking up against stigmatization can keep the substance addiction treatment industry well-funded to serve more people.
Public Health Advocacy and Self-Care Practices
Addiction is one of America’s most significant public health challenges. It should not be viewed as a moral issue or a criminal matter. Health professionals need to spearhead the effort to fund de-stigmatization campaigns.
Venues can be created for advocating pro-recovery messages, policies, and programs. Businesses and employers should seek to build recovery-supportive and wellness-promoting workplaces. In combatting stigma, recovering individuals need to diligently practice self-care. The most important thing is to set boundaries to refuse stigmatization, whether it is in the workplace or at home.
Recoverees should not allow these negative attitudes to rob their peace based on self-love and self-affirmation. When feelings of guilt and shame do emerge, their presence should be acknowledged, then the recoveree should re-affirm what they have learned about their self-worth and individuality during recovery.
Addiction recovery gives an enlightened understanding of one’s self and life. There may still be lingering trauma or cravings that create stress. However, these challenges can be overcome.
A person in recovery should practice self-acceptance and acknowledge that they are living life as imperfect human beings. Time and energy should be devoted each day to doing something that brings pride to one’s life. With the help of a supportive family and recovery experts, life in recovery will form its own positive rhythm.
Did you know that addiction-related stigma can become a barrier to treatment? Shame and guilt can also perpetuate substance use. We need coordinated actions among educators and healthcare workers to combat stigma. Recovering individuals need to be surrounded by supportive peers and health professionals. If you are looking for a strong recovery community, or if you want to support your loved one, you need not look beyond Casa Recovery. Here, recovering individuals and families can find professional help from experienced recovery experts. Each client’s treatment team will work with them to provide customized efficient and effective treatment methods that have been developed and applied in clinical settings. We are also actively combating addiction-related stigma by coaching community members toward self-acceptance and self-care. You will feel included and welcomed here. Call today at (888) 928-2272. You can play an active part in this thriving community.