In a study done by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), there are over 21 million adults (over the age of 12) in America who have a substance abuse disorder. This survey was done in 2014, and the numbers continue to grow. With that magnitude of those battling an addiction, it would seem that people would have a more compassionate relationship towards addiction. However, there is a very negative stigma around drug dependency and addicts.

Addiction is often seen as a choice, when in fact it is actually a disease. Those affected by addiction don’t have much control once it has taken over, similar to someone suffering from conditions such as diabetes. The disease will continue to damage the body unless proper medication and treatment is administered. Addiction affects the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the famous and ordinary people.

Education is the first step toward understanding and acceptance. The more people know the facts about addiction, the less likely they will be to place harsh judgements on those seeking treatment or attending rehab. This blog will serve as a guide for more information on the negative stigma surrounding drug addiction.

Facing Negativity and Stigma

The Stigma of AddictionFor those who have addiction issues, there is already a sense of personal negativity in many cases. Often, addicts face their own self-esteem issues and a low sense of self-worth, and a person who is already feeling less worth may be the very type of person who turns to drug abuse.

For instance, someone who experiences negative thoughts or little self-respect can be influenced by the inability to counteract those feelings without turning to avenues that are self-destructive – such as alcohol and drugs.

In fact, according to Psychology Today, there are quite a few factors that pose a risk for some people such as psychological factors, social norms, genetic endowment, and family background. The self-medication theory of addiction suggests that suffering is at the heart of addictive disorders (Khantzian, 2012). That is, individuals with deficits in emotion-regulation skills (i.e., skills relevant for modifying emotional reactions and tolerance for negative emotions) use drugs in an attempt to manage negative or distressing affective states. Basically, the very problems that may lead to drug addiction are the issues that an addicted person is trying to control in the first place.

This is similar to how someone who seems to have it all is found to be battling a drug problem and others are shocked. It is not what you have or who you are, but what is going on inside that is of major relevance to how you will react to drug use – whether recreational use, after-surgery prescriptions, or a first-time use. If you are experiencing a particular hardship during the time you begin using, it is likely that that substance will become your crutch for those negative emotions.

Not All Addicts Use Recreational Drugs

In the past, those who had issues with sobriety may have been known for their use of recreational drugs, like cocaine or heroin – and unfortunately, that stigma has not gone away. Many addicts are thought to be of a certain demographic – uneducated, poor, a lack of self-discipline, or homeless. However, that is far from true.

In recent years, opioid use after surgeries have skyrocketed. According to research on WebMD, the use of prescriptions for opioids such as Vicodin and Oxycontin has quadrupled since 1999. These are not people who fall into the demographics listed above, these are people who often went in for simple surgeries and found themselves addicted afterwards. These are your soccer moms, celebrities, and people just like you.

A shocking statistic shows that a dependence on opioids can occur in as little as five days. Imagine becoming addicted to something you were prescribed by a doctor – in less than a week.

Why We Need to Stop Blaming Addicts

Addiction is a disease, not a choice. Go to any social media comment thread and you’ll hear different opinions, but science has shown that it is not as simple as a mere lack of discipline. The American Society of Addiction Medicine and American Medical Association are just two of the numerous medical associations that agree.

A combination of biological factors, environmental factors, and behavioral factors are what causes addiction, just like forms of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Trauma is another factor to consider.

Most people who struggle with addiction have experienced trauma at some point in their lives. During any given year, 8 million adults in the United States will have PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder. Up to 80 percent of women who enroll in substance abuse therapy have endured physical or sexual violence.

Some people are under the impression that those who have an addiction made a choice to use the drug. While that is true on a simple scale, these individuals are not responsible for how their body and brain reacts to the drug. This is why some people never become addicted to the prescription they were given after surgery or after trying a drug once or twice – it all depends on the individual.

The choice that an addict does have is the ability to seek out rehabilitation and recovery.

Recovery is Possible

For those seeking sobriety, there are forms of rehabilitation that are successful. Scottsdale Recovery Center offers a wide variety of treatments and programs that can help with recovering from a variety of different disorders. Services for recovery include a myriad of successful treatments such as holistic approaches, PTSD Therapy, Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), and more.

If you know someone who is struggling with addiction, it is crucial that they are not stigmatized, judged, or treated like they are of a lower caliber of person. This is someone who needs compassion and understanding. Blaming addicts only increases the feeling of hopelessness or issues with self-worth. Instead, focus on how treatment is available and sobriety is possible with the right type of rehabilitation. Call us today for more information on how our programs can benefit you or a loved one.


Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.