There are many myths and misconceptions about alcoholism and who alcoholics are. Those who are not in the recovery community contribute to the perpetuation of these myths via stereotypes and being generally unaware of what addiction actually consists of. These myths may also contribute to the stigmatization of alcoholism.
The truth is that society has shaped itself to shame anyone who finds themselves suffering from mental health issues, especially when it comes to addiction. When you consider the fact that many believe addiction is a “chosen path”, the shame and guilt felt by these individuals can grow exponentially.
With this stigma so common in society, those with substance use issues are put in a difficult position. Those who want to get sober must go through recovery, followed up by a reentry into the world outside treatment. Although stigma surrounds the individual pre-treatment, there’s also a stigma during and after treatment as well.
This stigma may have to do with the fact that many decades ago, it was forbidden to discuss mental health issues within the United States. The reasons for this are rather vague. Some will defend that people suffering from mental health issues are simply leaning towards an excuse, while others find that people “overreact” to very common emotions.
It can be said that in today’s society, we are witnessing more public understanding in terms of mental health issues. We are in the progression of becoming more open about the topic and people are discovering much more sympathy for those affected by mental health.
But even still, the problem of addiction seems to reign stigma hard. More often than not, it’s for the simple reason that the disease comes off as though it were a choice. Because of this, society disregards the idea that addiction is a mental health problem at all.
This is the undesired truth: the idea that people just don’t understand addiction. With it comes a stream of emotions – guilt, fear, and shame – that cause individuals to avoid treatment. Even though it’s been statistically proven that, at least, one member of every family experiences some sort of mental illness, the stigma continues to create boundaries.
Understanding the Creation of the Emotion
Being that treatment is seen as a sort of meditative period, medical carers are responsible for more than just physically getting somebody sober. They also find themselves accountable for getting their patients to a fulfilling emotional state so they can live their happiest life. With society’s stigma towards addiction, this isn’t an easy task for both patients and medical carers.
This only furthers the proof that there’s a taboo placed on substance abuse rather than disorders such as depression or anxiety. Surveys have confirmed that there is a distinct difference in those will accept addiction and those who won’t. Generally, people who are affected or are close with someone suffering from mental health issues are more likely to comprehend those suffering from addiction.
With this survey, 709 people were asked a few simple questions about how they felt about individuals suffering from mental health issues and/or substance use issues:
- A little more than half claimed they’d work with an individual suffering from mental health issues while less than a quarter were willing to work with a substance abuser.
- A little less than three-quarters pronounced employers have every right to disregard employment from addicted individuals.
- A quarter believed employers had a right to deny employment from anyone with any type of mental disorder.
- A little less than half said health insurance companies had their right for disapproving indivduals suffering from substance use seeking treatment.
- About a fifth opposed health insurance companies from offering their benefits to those with any type of mental disorder.
These statistics clearly outline the stigma with addiction. Thinking about these statistics with regards to those seriously looking for treatment should give an idea of the intense emotions they experience. Shame, guilt, and a fear that others around them won’t comprehend why they want to change their lives.
Reasoning for Addictions Stigmatization
To put it simply, people are afraid of what they don’t know. When something is an absolute mystery to us, we tend to avoid thinking about it. When the time comes to think about it, we get the notion to retaliate. Why? Because we are unaware of how to properly react. There is no sense of understanding within it.
This is exactly the case with addiction. People don’t look into such a topic when they have no necessity to witness and/or experience it. However, this doesn’t give us an explanation as to why other mental health issues are slowly finding an acceptance while ones like addiction still receive backlash. Unfortunately, the explanation is often ignored even though it’s in clear sight.
There are individuals who are in a position where taking drugs doesn’t feel so much like a “choice”, rather, they are affected by something called Substance Use Disorder. The effects of this disease cause the brain to have strong urges of intaking some sort of chemical. Even if it’s unknown to the body, there’s the intention of making it known. This inevitably leads to addiction.
It should be noted that individuals affected by substance abuse disorder often experience this compulsivity even after treatment. This makes sobriety all the more difficult to accept. Even if a person doesn’t suffer from this disease, there’s still the chance for this sort of behavior. Reason being, the thrill of a high is so permanently locked into the brain.
In order to properly understand all this, we need to know that what affects a person’s substance abuse is more than just the thrill of the high. It’s vital to consider their genetics, environment, and the way in which they were raised. With these in mind, it becomes more clear as to why people can’t just “shake off” an addiction, even after going through treatment.
With this might come a relapse. This is another part of addiction that many others look down upon. In order for the public to truly understand, we must push the notion that addiction is very much a disease, not a simple choice. People with this disease struggle with finding their own groundings in life and often fall back into the cycle due to a lack of discovery.
This is why people going through treatment are often taught to look for other areas in which to take their lives. With the proper distraction, recovering from addiction becomes all the more easier. Mainly because it opens individuals up to other ways in which to spend their time. With this, there’s the hope that a person will blossom into a happy, fulfilled, and productive member of society.
How Does Stigma Impact Individuals?
There is certainty that due to these negative attributes associated with the word “addiction”, individuals are avoiding treatment altogether. This may only fuel drug addiction further. If a person entering treatment feels that he/she will be labeled with the term “addict” for the rest of their lives, they cease to seek out the necessary care.
The term overdose is, likewise, a deadly term which people avoid. If any individual has gone through such fate, they understand nobody wants to be labeled with an overdose. This has to do for two distinct reasons:
- Overdoses only happen in concerns with hard substances.
- It’s generally considered a “low life” scenario when someone has had the experience of an overdose.
For this reason, those who have experienced an overdose often prefer to avoid telling their doctors. For one, there’s this unspoken notion that a doctor isn’t going to trust a patient if the term is attached to them. Secondly, there’s the risk of it reaching someone of importance (i.e. a family member). Therefore, medication such as naloxone – what is used to reverse the effects of an overdose, saving many lives – often doesn’t reach the people it’s intended for.
The stigma of addiction is real. Those suffering from alcohol and/or drug use can use denial in order to avoid the challenges of accepting they have a problem. By bringing awareness to alcohol abuse, alcoholism, and substance use, we as a society can reduce the stigma often associated with addiction and ultimately get those individuals the help they need.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from substance abuse or if you would like more information on the above subject; please, give us a call at 602-535-6468 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You are not alone. We are here to help.