It’s amazing how something so small and seemingly insignificant to one person can hold so much power over another. But time and again, people fail to get the help they need or refuse to get treatment for addiction all because of one little word: stigma.
A Little Negativity has a Big Impact
It might not seem like a big deal — what others think about a person with a drug or alcohol addiction — but it is, and it is ruining countless lives. In our society today, there is a certain impression people have about people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol. They are seen as lazy, unmotivated, losers, or even hopeless. Addiction today is still viewed as a moral shortcoming by most Americans, regardless of research and evidence that proves otherwise. Those who can’t recover — on their own by trying hard enough or who have relapsed after treatment — are labeled selfish or a failure, someone not to be trusted, someone not worth anyone’s time or money.
The family of an addict also suffers because of stigma. People scrutinize these people’s lives, looking for what they did wrong or what they failed to do, or wondering why they did not see the warning signs and take action sooner.
It’s no wonder one of the most common reasons individuals and families refuse to get help for addiction issues is that they are afraid of what others will think. In a society that is so big on meddling in other people’s lives through social media and plain old gossiping, it shouldn’t surprise us that some people choose to keep their problem a secret. Keeping an addiction a secret will help protect a person’s reputation for the time being, but it allows the addiction to continue to develop and grow. This puts the person in a difficult situation: come clean and admit to others there is a problem, or keep the addiction a secret and wait for it to grow.
Dispel Myths About Addiction
What can be done? First of all, we can work to reduce or do away with the stigma. Educate the public about how common addiction really is, and what it is like to struggle with this disease. As we discuss the topic of addiction, its causes, and its treatment, we can help others see that it is a disease that needs to be handled properly.
Empower Individuals to Get Help
Secondly, we can empower people to get help for themselves or a family member despite the stigma that surrounds them. Yes, neighbors and acquaintances might judge and might talk, especially when they themselves are not educated about addiction. But by getting it out into the open, those addicted to drugs or alcohol can confidently participate in rehab and get back to life again.