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Why the stigma of addiction is so detrimental to recovering addicts

Oct 16, 2020, 12:13 PM

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 SALT LAKE CITY — For a recovering addict, sobriety and the road to recovery will look different when compared to another substance abuser. One thing that’s not different, is the stigma of addiction itself. 

In a study by the Research Recovery Institute, 314 individuals responded to 35 questions related to substance abuse. The participants, “overall”, feel that those who might abuse a substance were less likely to benefit from treatment, were more likely to benefit from punishment, and were more likely to be socially threatening.

The NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information) credits this stigma to be influenced by many compounding factors. Some of the most influential are social norms, personal experience, and how media has often portrayed addiction and substance abuse disorders.

Even though studies have proven that those suffering from a substance abuse disorder are “as likely to adhere to treatment as people with other chronic medical conditions, such as hypertension or diabetes”, they are often shut out from society due to their disease.

There are ways to break the stigma of addiction though. Assuredly, the work of recovery mostly looms over the abuser. But as a society, it’s time to do our own part in ridding the stigma of addiction.

How the stigma of addiction affects addicts or those in recovery

For many addicts in recovery, the stigma of addiction can last well into their sobriety. This can often cause a relapse or even self-isolation, which only promotes further use of substances.

Being able to openly talk about their recovery does come at a cost. Many substance abusers in recovery may feel that they can receive unequal treatment due to their history of abuse. This type of introspection can often negatively impact self-esteem. It also has the potential for those active in their addiction from ever asking for the help they need.

Not to mention the impact that previous addictions may impact future employment.

Getting rid of the stigma of addiction

Luckily, for many substance abusers in recovery, we are understanding the disease of addiction more and more every day. If we approach addiction and substance abuse with an open mind, we can all gain a better understanding of what it means to live in recovery. We can also rid the stigma of addiction with simple communication. As well as being more knowledgeable on the topic of substance abuse. Here are a couple of tips to be more informed of the dangers of addiction.

  • Educate ourselves – There are many ways to break the stigma of addiction. One of those is to educate ourselves on the topic of addiction. There are countless resources online regarding the topic. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has a collection of resources that can help our communities stay informed.
  • Listen to others – Another way to be educated on the complexities of addiction is to just listen to those suffering. Being able to sit down and have a conversation to better understand the pain and struggle of addiction can always help create that dialogue of positive reinforcement.
  • Empathize – Being able to empathize with a recovering addict is one of the most impactful ways to rid the stigma of addiction. Allowing yourself to avoid shaming the person for their disease will allow both parties to grow closer together. By opening up that conversation you can help encourage further recovery.

By staying vigilant, collectively we can all benefit by learning more about the dangers of addiction.

Listen to the Project Recovery podcast to learn more ways of ridding the stigma of addiction

For more information on opioid prevention or if you or someone you know is struggling, you can find more information on Facebook, KSL TV, or from Use Only as Directed. To hear more from Casey Scott and Dr. Matt Woolley, you can listen below or subscribe to the ‘Project Recovery’ podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get major podcasts.

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Why the stigma of addiction is so detrimental to recovering addicts