Overcoming The Stigma Of Drug And Alcohol Addiction In The United States

By Juliet D'cruz

Stress, trauma, or mental illness.

People start using drugs or falling back on alcohol for any one of the three reasons listed above. It often starts innocently as a way to douse their emotions or help numb their pain. 

Slowly, it starts becoming an integral part of their life, and before you know it, you are fighting a raging addiction problem. 

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in fourteen Americans is fighting a substance abuse problem of one form or another?

The United States is in the midst of an epidemic. We are currently witnessing the worst ever opioid epidemic sweeping across the length and breadth of the country. Americans are becoming addicted to prescription drugs and are losing their livelihood as well as their lives!

While everyone is aware of the presence of detox centers or rehab clinics, the stigma associated with the same prevents them from seeking help. 

In this resource article on overcoming the stigma of drug and alcohol addiction in the United States, we are going to address the following topics- 

  • Understanding the reasons why stigma exists in the first place
  • Explaining how rehab centers and detox facilities can help
  • How, as a society, we can make addiction recovery an acceptable part of our society
  • The Bottom Line

If you or someone you know is not able to seek professional help for alcohol addiction recovery because of stigma, please read the article till the end. 

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Understanding Stigma: Reasons that have led to its existence

  1. Blame-

Any individual that is currently suffering from SUD (Substance Use Disorder) is blamed for their habit. This is unlike other illnesses where patients are sympathized with and looked after. 

If you are using drugs or have an alcohol addiction problem, it is often interpreted as something that you brought on yourself. In such instances, everyone from friends to family members and even medical professionals starts blaming you for your actions. 

Blame is one major reason why many users do not approach recovery centers or detox facilities. They feel that once they come out in the open and seek help for their addiction, they will be blamed. If no one knows about this, they will not be able to blame anyone. 

  1. Shame- 

“He was doing so well in his career. A simple break-up made him fall back on drugs?” There is an inherently negative connotation when it comes to drug use or alcohol addiction. People struggle to come out in the open simply because they will be shamed. 

They fear that once their problems are out and about, society will start shaming their parents, friends, partners, and even work colleagues. If the shame is made public, it can lead to societal ostracization. 

The fear that everyone close to them will suffer in silence prevents individuals from seeking professional help. They feel that laying low and continuing with their addiction can keep everyone happy. A typical case of ‘ignorance is bliss’.

To be honest, reactions to someone that is using are never positive. It is looked down on as some kind of a failure. People fear that if someone watches them stepping into a rehab center, they might spread the word. 

Companies, too, are not very welcoming as far as providing professional opportunities to drug users. Individuals fear that they might end up losing their jobs or professional livelihoods. 

Rehab Centers and Detox Facilities: How they can help

To be clear, if it weren’t for rehab centers and detox facilities, millions of drug and alcohol users would be losing their lives every single year. 

Rehab centers and detox facilities have given so many drug and alcohol users a second shot at life. These institutions help individuals that are suffering from SUD cleanse their bodies and get back to a healthy way of living that is free of drugs or alcohol. 

Let us try to briefly look at each one of them. While many people make the mistake of thinking that both rehab and detox are one and the same, the fact remains that they aren’t. 

  1. Detox Facilities- 

A Detox Facility is a specialized medical care facility that is run by trained and professional doctors, nurses, and medical technicians. The aim of a detox facility is to remove all traces of toxins from your body by taking help from medications. The primary aim of a detox facility is to not only remove the dangerous toxins but also to manage withdrawal symptoms. The ideal time that someone would spend at a detox facility would be a few days to a week. 

  1. Rehab Centers-

Rehabilitation or recovery centers might or might not offer detox services. The period of stay at a rehab center is usually more. For example, the period of stay at a rehab center can be between a few weeks to a few months. Rehab centers are more about building healthy habits, controlling urges, and overcoming cravings. They help with everything from mental health therapy to providing you with the best diet and nutrition for your body to recover completely. 

The following are some of the major benefits of seeking recovery options at a rehab center or detox facility- 

  1. Availability of medications to counter withdrawal symptoms
  2. Round the clock medical support by doctors and nurses
  3. Ability to provide for crisis and emergency medical intervention
  4. Both residential (inpatient) as well as outpatient facilities

How can we make Addiction Recovery an acceptable part of society?

The first thing that we should know about addiction is that it is not associated with a character flaw. Science has been able to prove that someone suffering from an addiction problem exhibits imbalances in their brain’s chemistry. 

This means that it is a disease or an illness just like any other. Additionally, users need to realize that relapsing is not a sign of failure. Rather, it should be looked upon as a setback that can easily be managed with the right course of action. 

According to leading experts, the entire discourse around the language of addiction needs to be looked at. For example, at no point should we be using the terms- addict, abuser, junkie, or druggie. In its place, we should be using terms like ‘person with a SUD, recovery, patient, and so on. 

While a lot of celebrities have come forward as far as issues of mental health are concerned, the same level of awareness, public education, and informative discourse need to be available on drug addiction and recovery. This can help fight the stigma that exists in our society. 

For example, the period of stay at a rehab center can be between a few weeks to a few months. In some cases, there are online suboxone treatment available for people who want to be treated at their own home.

The Bottom Line

Stigma prevents people from reaching out for help. They know that what they are doing is damaging them. Yet, for fear of shame or being blamed for their past actions, they fail to reach out to experts at rehab centers or high voltage detox facilities and get themselves treated for an issue that is nothing more than an illness. If you would like to add any more points to the above discussion, feel free to list them in the comments section. 

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