Stigma is one of the hardest things people who suffer from alcohol or drug abuse have to deal with. Many people hold a negative, discriminatory attitude towards people with addiction issues. Among people suffering from any type of mental health problems, 9 out of 10 say they have experienced stigma. Some even claim that experiencing stigma is more difficult than coping with the mental illness itself.
Stigma is hugely harmful to how we think about addiction issues on a personal, up to political level. Most unhelpfully, it prevents people from identifying themselves as addicts, and taking proactive steps to access the treatment they need because they afraid to encounter stigma.
Stigma stems from the ignorant belief that addiction is the result of personal weakness, or only afflicts ‘bad’ people. This is not true. Research has demonstrated that addiction is a disease of the brain. Addiction can affect anyone regardless of their upbringing, social status or morality.
How Stigma Affects the Addicted Person
- They may experience discrimination
- They may feel ashamed or embarrassed, meaning they may try to disguise their condition from others around them
- They may become isolated and alienated from their social network
- Families of addicted people also experience stigma, meaning they may feel shame, embarrassment, and anger, which could be directed towards their addicted family member. The stress of being related to someone with addiction problems can cause social and even medical issues for the family member.
Ways of Coping with the Stigma of Addiction
Denial is a huge barrier to successful recovery from addiction. Recognising and accepting that you suffer from a treatable addiction problem is the first step on the journey to regaining your health.
Go to Alcoholics Anonymous / Narcotics Anonymous meetings
By attending peer-support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), you will discover a network of people in the same position as you. You can offer each other mutual support throughout the recovery process. Meanwhile, ask your family and friends to attend Al-Anon meetings. These are specifically aimed at the support network of the addicted person. They help these people to understand and support their friend or family member, as well as cope with the negative effects the person’s addiction may be having on their own lives.
Access Treatment for Addiction
At Smarmore Castle, our programme contains a vital, educational aspect. Patients learn to understand their addiction – what causes it, and how they can overcome it. This often proves to be a huge relief for patients, who may have carried harmful beliefs about their addiction being their fault. Meanwhile, through our programme of personal and group therapy, they learn how to avoid relapse by improving skills such as self-esteem, and repairing unhelpful attitudes and thought patterns surrounding their addictive behaviour.
Keep Contact with Family and Friends
Having a support network is hugely beneficial to the addiction recovery process. Don’t be afraid to share your emotions and experiences of drug addiction and recovery with your family and friends. They will greatly appreciate you being honest with them, and will want to help you get better.