Changing the stigma of drug addiction is a crucial component of changing the narrative surrounding this struggle. Far too often, those who struggle with addiction are labeled as “junkies” or looked at as though they are a lost cause when in reality they are human beings who need to be loved and cared for just as anyone else. The narrative and stigma surrounding drug addiction contribute to the lack of care received by the individual who is struggling. Understanding addiction, and how to approach and speak on it is vital to change this stigma.
The Importance of Language
Just like anything else, when discussing addiction, it is important to use language that is less detrimental. Referring to the person rather than their struggles can aid in changing the stigma of drug addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that using words that could be stigmatizing can contribute to the person struggling with addiction being less willing to get help. Compassionate and empathetic language can make a difference in how the conversation surrounding the struggle is perceived. When in doubt, asking the individual can help create understanding.
Effects of the Stigma Surrounding Drug Addiction
Addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter if someone is a high-powered executive or someone who works at a fast food chain, addiction can alter the lives of people in lower, middle, and high-class lifestyles. The stigma surrounding addiction can affect the outcome when it comes to the individual receiving help to overcome their struggle. Because addiction is often looked down on, the individual struggling could see a barrier to getting better. Addiction is a chronic but treatable condition, and changing the stigma of drug addiction is necessary to allow individuals to get treatment without feeling less than.
Harmful Effects of Labels
Labels surrounding addiction often contribute to the continued stigmatization of the treatable condition. Changing the stigma of drug addiction begins with changing labels and language surrounding the condition. Labels often contribute to guilt and shame in the individuals who have found themselves struggling with drug addiction, and this guilt and shame contributes to avoiding treatment and continued use. Labels and stigma also contribute to continued isolation behaviors and feelings of worthlessness, which lead to continued use. Labeling those who are struggling as “addicts” or “junkies” can also lead to detrimental societal stereotypes. Often, people who struggle with drug addiction are looked down upon in society, portraying that they are morally weak, lack willpower, and can “stop anytime”, when in reality, they have a treatable medical condition. Addiction is a disease that is chronic and relapsing, and without changing the stigma of drug addiction, individuals who struggle may continue to feel like getting help is a weakness.
Empathy and Understanding are Important
Many people haven’t been able to fully understand what addiction entails for the individual struggling. Having that understanding can contribute to more empathy surrounding the subject. Those struggling with addiction are often faced with judgment. If there was more empathy and understanding surrounding the subject, it could lead to changing the stigma of addiction. The individuals who are struggling could feel more empowered to receive proper treatment, and overcome the addiction.
Treatment Over Punishment
In society, people who struggle with addiction to drugs often engage in risky and illegal behaviors. This leads to incarceration and criminal charges. Part of changing the stigma of drug addiction is focusing on and promoting treatment for addiction over punishment. This includes discipline and moral judgments. Often, those left to serve their sentence, without receiving proper care, reoffend and end up in a cycle of addiction leading to criminal activity and incarceration. By shifting the focus toward treatment and healing over punishment, it can help shed light on success stories and positive outcomes of getting help, rather than the negative connotations surrounding drug addiction.
How Treatment Helps
Getting proper care and treatment can affect the success of an individual struggling with addiction down the road. Left to fend for themselves, addiction can be a cycle that continues to wreak havoc on their lives. If they are given proper help and proper treatment, the individual has the potential to grow and heal, leading to a positive and productive lifestyle down the road. Treatment provides a safe environment that promotes healing and growth, allowing for the individual to begin a path of recovery, while receiving medical and mental health support that can be beneficial for long term recovery.
Begin Recovery Now
Struggling with drug addiction is a battle that can be extremely difficult and overwhelming. The individual struggling faces a unique set of challenges on a daily basis, and the stigma surrounding drug addiction often leads them to feeling alone. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction to drugs, you are not alone. There is help available. At The Healing Center we offer care for individuals that is tailored to their specific needs. Call us today and begin a new path in life to overcome addiction.