Drug and Alcohol Addiction: The Stigma Remains

August 12, 2010

Public service announcements about drugs and alcohol are everywhere. Addiction treatment services are also highlighted as places of hope and support. However, a stigma remains for people with drug and alcohol addiction.

Part of the problem is that addiction is not just a social problem or a medical problem. It is both.


Addiction Straddles Two Types Of Science

Effective medical treatments are being developed and used, but there is no physical “cure” for addiction. Social networks and support groups are essential to sobriety, but sometimes they aren’t enough.

Some people also believe that if you’ve been warned not to do something and you do it anyway, then you deserve what you get. Others believe that people who really push their limits with drugs and alcohol are to be admired. With all the mixed messages circulating about drugs and alcohol, it’s no surprise society has a mixed opinion of people seeking addiction treatment.

It helps to consider how chemical we are as human beings. Our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are triggered by natural chemicals in our bodies. So wouldn’t it make sense that adding chemicals from the outside could affect someone’s life profoundly, even their emotions and motivation for daily life? If we treat thoughts and emotions as if they are removed from the context of the human body, this biochemical connection gets lost.

Social Stigma And Personal Beliefs

Social stigma is a truly unfortunate thing to attach to a person. However, people have free will and the means to develop their own beliefs about their world. Cultures also have different ideas about how “social ills” like mental illness and addiction arise.

When something is not easily understood, people draw their own conclusions. These conclusions are either supported or rejected by the people around them. Public educations messages can gradually sink in over time for some people. But others, depending on their personal beliefs and social culture, may not change their minds about alcoholism or drug addiction.

Understanding Addiction – A Work In Progress

Drug rehab is a place of hope and second chances, but many people still avoid telling anyone for fear of being judged. Not likely the case if they were receiving cancer treatments or getting tested for a heart condition. The sympathy and concern is often not as universal. Even friends and relatives may have mixed feelings about a loved one’s addiction.

It will take some time to develop a better understanding of addiction in our modern society. In many ways, the stigma has improved from decades past. Many communities do a great job delivering drug treatment and alcohol rehab services to those who need them. But there is still much work to be done about the perception of addiction and treatment.

Drug and Alcohol Addiction – Working To Break The Stigma

As scientists continue to study addiction, improved treatment methods and better outcomes may help turn the tide of social understanding. You can help by going against the stigma when you see it. For more information about how drug treatment really helps people today, give us a call.

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