In Part 1, we examined the problem of social stigma during addiction. We also touched on the effect this stigma has on the individual. Now, we will look at how to move forward in recovery despite
It’s strange that this stigma still exists, because addiction – properly called Substance Use Disorder – is a medically-recognized illness. As such, it has identifiable symptoms and prescribed treatments.
The only way to eliminate stigma barriers is through gaining a better understanding of what addiction/SUD IS and what it ISN’T.
To start with, SUD isn’t a poor choice, a moral weakness, or selfishness on the part of the sufferer. As Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, says, “In all my years as a physician, I have never, ever met an addicted person who wanted to be an addict.”
NIDA says that SUD is a “chronic, relapsing brain DISEASE that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.”
The NIDA further explains that chronic substance abuse creates long-lasting chemical and physical changes in the brain’s structure. These alterations drive compulsive drug-seeking and self-destructive behaviors.
Think about that for a moment – “despite harmful consequences”. That means a person struggling with an addictive disorder can experience several serious consequences – relationship problems, health issues, legal difficulties – and still be unable to stop drinking and using.
Dr. Volkow also says, “An individual in this situation may not think twice about the risk of losing his or her freedom tomorrow in order to chase the drug today.”
What Can Be Done to Overcome Stigma?
The key to overcoming prejudice and misunderstanding is education. If you or someone you know is affected by any addictive disorder, the best thing you can do for everyone involved is to learn everything you can about this complicated and baffling disease.
As you find out more about SUD, scientific research and evidence that will review of some of your old, preconceptions. And, armed with facts rather than stereotypes, you will be far better equipped to find the best treatment program for your situation.
Best of all, you will finally be able to let go of all the self-defeating and unproductive shame and guilt that you have been carrying around. Instead of looking back in regret, you can look forward to a better future of sobriety and serenity.
Use what you have learned to counter old misconceptions and stereotypes, whether someone else’s or your own. Because believe it or not, the person most likely to blame the substance abuser for their illness is very often the substance abuser.
But when you release that burden, you free yourself up to forward in recovery unencumbered by old baggage.
Since 1978, individuals and families in crisis have been able to turn to Chapman House Treatment Centers. As one of the most-reputable alcohol and drug treatment programs in Orange County, California, the staff at Chapman House have the experience AND the expertise to help you return to the life you deserve.
by Albert Fontenot