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Even though society has moved on in how it views many social situations, this isn’t really so when it comes to addiction. The unfortunate fact is that if you suffer from any form of addiction, you likely also experience stigma.

I say this is unfair because addiction is a disease. Specifically, addiction is a disease of the mind, and so it is not physically ‘on show’ like many other diseases.

This fact has caused many to doubt the fact that addiction is a disease, instead preferring to consider it a form of behavioural abnormality. This stigma prevents people from seeking out treatment for this disease. In turn, stigma thus serves to cruelly perpetuate the disease of addiction.

Stigma must be considered a negative attitude that is imposed upon people who are judged as ‘not normal’. Often, stigma is a reaction that’s characterised by prejudice, fear and ignorance. Stigma is overcome with either education or direct experience. I believe it will take a concerted effort by those in power over a long period of time to help defeat this stigma attached to addiction. The good news is that I do believe this goal is achievable.

Currently, there is a disconnect between the way the wider medical community and the public view addiction. For decades, the medical community has accepted the idea that addiction is a disease. This view is in contrast to popular belief that addiction is in some way a moral failing or weakness of character.

This stigma is often reflected in the language that’s used to describe people who are addicted to substances. Terms such as ‘junkie’ and ‘smackhead’ are all too common. I believe an effort has to be made to educate people that using these terms is offensive, cruel and something that dehumanises the disease of addiction.

What are the effects of this stigma?

Below, I list some of the effects this stigma is having for people who are affected by addiction:

  • Isolation
  • Discrimination
  • Embarrassment and shame
  • An unwillingness to admit to the disease of addiction (AKA ‘denial’)
  • An unwillingness to seek out treatment
  • Loss of job and home
  • Stigma directed to family members of those affected by addiction

The above effects may mean the stigma attached to addiction is worse than the addiction itself. It would be unthinkable if people suffering from other chronic disorders such as diabetes or asthma were treated in a similar manner.

Tips for coping with the stigma attached to addiction

Below, we outline a number of tips to help you or your loved one cope with this stigma attached to addiction:

1. Refuse to isolate yourself

Open up to family members and close friends/colleagues about your addiction. Outline your worries and tell these people you wish to change. You may be surprised by the support these people are willing to offer you. Isolation is one of the main reasons why people fail to attain recovery.

2. Accept you have an illness

Addiction is often accompanied by denial. Given the stigma attached to addiction, it’s not surprising that so many people are unwilling to admit they are suffering from addiction. Instead, face up to your illness. Doing so is essential if you are ever to break free from addiction. Addiction is a treatable disease and it is certainly not your fault why you are suffering from this illness.

3. Attend a local mutual support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous

Attending a local mutual support group is entirely free of change. Doing so will open up a supportive fellowship of people who have experienced addiction first hand in their own past. Your family may also attend Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a mutual support group that assists family members of those who experience addiction.

Getting help today

Rehab 4 Addiction is a specialist helpline set up to help those who are effective by alcoholism and drug addiction. Because addiction is a physical addiction, it’s important to undertake a detox with medical supervision. This level of care is offered at a drug or alcohol rehab clinic.

If you wish to locate rehab clinics in your local area, contact our helpline today on 0800 140 4690.

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