Addiction not only affects an individual’s physical and mental well-being, but the disorder also disrupts their social life which becomes even worse after people get to know their condition. Doesn’t matter if they are in a process to get back on their feet or have been successful in maintaining their sobriety for some time, the stigma around addiction persists.
People perceive addicts as morally weak, disgraceful, and fragile. In times when addicts seek the most support from the people around them, it is our job to make them feel that they are not worthless, that they can overcome this phase. However, the stigma around addiction is so common and widespread, that organizations that are purely focused on spreading awareness about addiction have to exist to help shift the stigma surrounding it.
Why Is There A Stigma Around Addiction?
There can’t be one answer to this question. However, the primary reason that there is so much misconception around addiction is a lack of knowledge. Most of the people lack basic information about how addiction disorders engulf an individual. A survey revealed that almost 76% of people think that addiction occurs by choice. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Anyone can become addicted to alcohol or drugs irrespective of their background. There are cases where people do not even want to continue substance abuse, but their body has become so dependant on the drug that they just cannot help it. Society still treats addicts as second-class citizens who make poor decisions and have a weak control of their minds. All this because they don’t have enough knowledge of how addiction develops.
How To End The Addiction Stigma?
The stigma around addiction may not be completely eradicated from this world, but we are working hard to end it. You will always find someone who will treat those with addiction disorders very poorly. However, we can do our part and follow the measures below to help reduce the presence of prejudice, if not completely end the stigma.
- Listening Before Judging
It is easy to judge someone without knowing their actual condition. This becomes even more crucial in cases where it is the addict who needs to be dealt with. If you find someone around you struggling to get through addiction under control, it is advisable to hear their story before you develop an opinion about them.
Every addict who’s trying to get out of this struggle has their own story. Almost everyone who seeks medical support to end their addictive behavior really wants to live a healthy and sober life. If you’ll listen to their part of the story, maybe you’ll feel differently about addicts.
- Language is Important
Look for the language used by the people around you while talking about addiction. If you happen to hear words that perpetuate the stigma, and may develop a misconception about the disorder that addiction is, it becomes your responsibility to interrupt.
Addiction is a disease and the terms used while addressing this issue should also be chosen carefully. Words with negative connotations such as junkie, abuser, clean, dirty, druggie, use, etc may impact this medical condition.
- Treating Patients with Dignity
People with other health conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes are not ill-treated or face social consequences because of their disease. They live their life with pride and often receive full support while fighting their disease.
Addicts should be treated the same way. There is no difference between them and the patients of other diseases. They too are in a process to win this battle against a disease. One thing that can determine the end result of their efforts is how supportive they feel around people. Next time you are around someone dealing with addiction, treat them with dignity.
- Expand Your Knowledge
If you tease those who suffer from addiction and call them names, you lack the very basic knowledge of how addiction consumes an individual. You are completely unaware that this is a disease like any other existing health condition. By being a person who treats addiction as just a lack of willpower, you’re making the stigma worse for the people who are suffering.
Instead, do your own research. Gather facts about what addiction is and how it has nothing to do with the common notion that society has. If you could understand that addiction is a disorder that affects the chemicals in our brain, you could pass the knowledge to someone who’s degrading addiction and its patients in the future.
- Encourage Others to Seek Help
One thing that most people suffering from addiction often hear about themselves is that they are weak. Addiction disorder requires immediate medical attention and this thinking of society pulls back those who are suffering from not seeking help. They instead try getting sober on their own or continue to drink or smoke the way they used to.
A little help from society, a little push of motivation from everyone around these patients can do a lot. We must encourage those who want to put an end to their addictive behavior and help them seek immediate care.
- Speak Up
Yes, speak up when you hear or see someone making fun of or spreading false information about addiction. It is important to put a step forward and educate those who lack knowledge on this topic. It won’t matter if we alone are well informed, we must also pass the information forward to put an end this stigma forever.
Unless you don’t interrupt and speak up for what’s wrong, nothing can be changed. And our collective measures are the only thing that’s needed to make life easier for the patients in recovery.
There are plenty more ways to fight stigma, however, these six are the basic ones that we can easily incorporate in our daily lives to bring some change.
We live in 2020 and the concern of stigma around addiction is still thriving. Although our society has come a long way since the past few decades, the guilt and shame associated with addiction is still visible even today. These misconceptions can be harmful to those who are suffering and can stop them from seeking help. It is better if we understand that our thoughts and actions can impact someone so deeply.
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