Person considering the stigma of addiction

Stigma of Addiction

Is stigma preventing you from seeking addiction recovery options? When it comes to substance use disorder (SUD) treatment, addiction stigma often labels an individual unfairly and prolongs or even prevents a move toward recovery and improving one’s life.

Learn how The Right Step Houston can help individuals struggling with SUDs show up for themselves despite the stigma against addiction. Call our team at 1.844.768.0169 and ask about our addiction treatment programs and services.

What Is Stigma?

The stigma of addiction can show up in many ways. Society might have a general feeling about addiction and those struggling with SUDs. People can also internalize addiction stigma, and individuals who struggle with addiction then believe the negative messages they’ve heard about themselves. This internalization can make it harder to seek treatment and even to stick with recovery when they do.

The Difference Between Science and Stigma

Stigma and science offer very different tales regarding addiction and SUD treatment. Unfortunately, in many circles, the message of stigma speaks louder and lasts longer. 

Stigma looks at an individual who struggles with addiction and says, “They chose this path.” In other words, the assumption is that an individual knows what they’re doing is terrible for them and society, but they wake up every day and do it anyway. This way of thinking removes all context from the situation and all hope for the individual. The perception that an individual could choose a different lifestyle if they really wanted to makes addiction much more stigmatized than other health problems with a participatory component.

 On the other hand, science considers years of study, research, and review to examine an individual struggling with addiction. Then, science says, “They made unwise choices along the way, but they also likely endured a difficult upbringing, a mental health challenge, or other personal setbacks that both initiated the development of a SUD and encouraged it to continue.” This way of thinking acknowledges the whole person and their experiences. Science recognizes the genuine environmental and genetic factors that contribute to addiction and the documented changes in the brain that make getting sober extra complicated.

Why the Message the Rehab Community Listens to Matters

If you or someone you care about struggles with addiction, stigma can only cause harm. However, science can serve to help your case and lead you to addiction recovery. The message that the rehab community listens to most is the one based on years of study, research, and review. That’s science. At The Right Step Houston, we understand that addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease. We also know that with comprehensive treatment and care, individuals can and do recover every day.

The stigma of addiction can emphasize the idea that you’re never safe and can keep people struggling with SUDs silent, hiding, and alone. People like you or someone you care about can feel like unvalued members of your community. That’s how many individuals struggling with addiction die: alone, hopeless, and spiritually empty.

How Does Stigma Affect Addiction Treatment?

There are a few ways that stigma can interfere with addiction recovery: 

  • Individuals struggling with SUDs may feel like they don’t deserve treatment or that treatment won’t work for them
  • The internalized stigma against addiction might make individuals struggling with SUDs give up on treatment early
  • Stigma can even cause people not to want to seek help in the first place

What’s common with these interferences is that stigma against addiction delays or slows access to SUD treatment for people who need them. Despite proven plans for addiction treatment, tens of thousands of people die every year due to addiction, and stigma is essentially to blame. After all, if an individual believes they are responsible for their condition and unworthy of receiving help, they’re unlikely to feel comfortable asking for it. 

Studies show that even medical professionals show a preference for people not displaying signs of addiction over those obviously struggling with addiction. Emergency rooms have even been found to remove individuals in an apparent state of withdrawal when this is precisely when they most need medical help. 

Stigma Doesn’t Have to Define Your Addiction Treatment Story

If you’d like to stop the message of stigma for good, you can do so with three key actions: 

  • Recognize the truth about addiction – Addiction doesn’t represent moral failure. It simply means an individual needs help.
  • Remember that words are powerful – Think “substance use disorder” instead of “substance abuse.” Include the word “treatable” when discussing addiction. 
  • Avoid labeling yourself or others – An individual is more than their addiction. They could be a loving parent who enjoys taking care of their kids. They could work at your local bank or grocery store. On top of this, they could simply need professional help managing their addictive substance intake.

Don’t let addiction stigma control whether or not you seek professional help. If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, don’t hesitate to seek help. Many reputable addiction treatment centers can help you or your loved one get on the road to recovery.

Learn About The Right Step Houston’s Programs That Help to Fight Addiction Stigma

If you or someone you care about is struggling with an SUD, The Right Step Houston can help. Our staff offers inpatient and outpatient treatment programs at our state-of-the-art facility, providing the highest quality care for those struggling with addiction. Call us at 1.844.768.0169 to speak with an addiction specialist today.

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