Unfortunately, across the UK, both drug and alcohol addictions and substance abuse are widespread issues. Yet, through this difficult and exhausting behavioural illness lies the potential of addiction stigma.
Across the UK, there are many preconceived stereotypes of an addict, painting a not so very nice picture; most of the time, this picture couldn’t be further from the truth. Yet, through this stigma, there’s unfortunately potential of causing a stronger substance use disorder and connected mental health issues; reducing drug user’s motivation to rehabilitate.
Through prejudice and discrimination, living with addiction can be very hard for individuals; even harder than it already is while battling with withdrawal symptoms, mental health problems and a deterioration in life. With this in mind, as a nation, we should make a conscious effort to reduce addiction stigma.
If you’re suffering from addiction stigma, see our guide here at Rehab Clinics Group for working through this difficult time.
What Is Addiction Stigma?
An addiction stigma is negative attitudes associated with any form of substance abuse and/or mental health illness. A stigma is commonly surrounding stereotypes which do not fit the norm. With that said, for those suffering with chronic illnesses, there’s a high probability of prejudice and discrimination.
Many individuals will create a negative stereotype of those abusing drugs and alcohol, categorising them all into the same box. They will be frowned upon, publicly embarrassed and shamed. Yet, it is important to remember that although an addiction stigma may be preconceived, an addiction can, and will affect anyone. Likewise, a negative attitude is usually formed around what is branded as right or wrong, deviating from any form of education or facts surrounding addiction.
Addiction stigmas are also prevalent in social and cultural aspects. Here, certain groups or religions will discriminate users based on their mental health issue. Yet, it again is important to remember that an addiction is a mental health, behavioural illness. Before developing any form of addiction stigma, it is important to understand behavioural issues further, and how your stereotype will impact those affected.
An addiction can develop and affect those who fit within the normal category; those who have a family, good job and health. Addictions can also develop from a number of physical and psychological influences. With this in mind, before branding every individual under the same category, consider their feelings and the impacts of a stigma.
Likely Experiences of Addiction Stigma
For individuals living with addiction, here are the common negative attitudes or discriminatory behaviours experienced:
- Embarrassment of loved ones, family members, peers or colleagues
- A limited depth of addiction treatment available for personal budgets
- Exclusion or isolation
- A lack of education of those sharing negative attitudes
- Family members can also be stigmatised, categorised into the same box
- Losing a job, home, or damaging relationships
- Having a negative stereotype follow you around, even post treatment
- Being known for your addiction, rather than yourself
Each of these experiences are unnecessary and very difficult. No individual experiencing a mental health issue should encounter discrimination, even if strong opinions or preconceived ideas are made. Here at Rehab Clinics Group, we urge observes to avoid stigmatising addiction. For those living with addiction, we urge you to work through this feeling, with the aim to rehabilitate and prove them wrong.
The Damaging Effects of Addiction Stigma
For those individuals suffering with an addiction, they are already experiencing many negative side effects. With this in mind, addiction stigma can tip them over the edge further.
By experiencing discrimination and negative comments, it is highly likely that those abusing drugs and alcohol will avoid any form of support. They will distance themselves from opening up, with the understanding that greater prejudice will be experienced. This is unfortunately the reality for many individuals, delaying any form of support or treatment programs to avoid the behaviours of others.
It is also important to consider the feelings of those suffering. By stigmatising addiction, it is common for those negative behaviours to fuel further drug and alcohol abuse and/or mental health issues. This will make it harder for individuals to commit to treatment.
By fuelling addiction stigma, there is also potential for internalised stigma to fester. Here is where an individual will either live through denial, reduce their self-esteem and confidence to recover, and also cause isolation.
With this in mind, before forming an addiction stigma, it is important to consider how this negative attitude will impact others. Although you may have opinions on substance abuse, those opinions will not help those with addictions; it will make the experience worse. Attempt to understand addiction greater, while promoting a supportive and healing atmosphere.
How to Overcome Addiction Stigma
Addiction stigma can be difficult to overcome. Yet, through determination to recover, it can be conquered. It is recommended to surround yourself with those who understand, who motivate recovery and with those who truly care. Accept your addiction personally, while looking towards the future you will lead post addiction. Whether that’s through AA meetings or completing addiction treatment here at Rehab Clinics Group, you’ll have the potential to recover, while rising above addiction stigma.
For those witnessing addiction, reducing stigma related opinions will be encouraged. It is recommended to understand addiction greater, along with the experience’s individuals go through. Listen to your loved one without making any judgement, inspire recovery, offer facts and not opinions, while also following a compassionate approach. Do your bit to reduce addiction stigma, with the aim to help those suffering, slowly reach out for support.
If you’re living through addiction stigma, we highly recommend surrounding yourself with positive environments, people and activities. We encourage the avoidance of isolation, by sourcing mutual support – whether that’s through family or others struggling. Likewise, we recommend reaching out for both support and addiction treatment through our rehab. We can help you accept your addiction, understand why stigmas are formed, while working way beyond those negative attitudes.
If addiction stigma is experienced, keep going. Many of those opinions are uneducated and mislead. Deal with stigma by understanding the ignorance and lack of education of those making comments, while focusing on your own recovery and character. Reach out for our guidance through addiction stigma.