Removing the Stigma: Changing the Nation’s Outlook on Addiction and Recovery

A 2011 study revealed that more than 23 million Americans aged 12 and older needed rehabilitative services to overcome an addiction to drugs or alcohol. With close to 10 percent of the population suffering from addiction, it could be argued that more people would be sympathetic to this public health crisis.

Instead, people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol are often shunned, mocked, and misunderstood, often by the individuals closest to them. Medical experts are now hoping to turn this tide of public opinion by using these methods to remove the stigma attached with drug and alcohol addiction.


Emphasizing Underlying Medical Causes

Few people intend to purposely become addicted to drugs or alcohol. Those struggling with addiction are often led down the path to dependency because of a legitimate underlying medical cause that they cannot escape.

To help remove the stigma of addiction, physicians and rehabilitation specialists continue to teach people that medical factors are often at work when a person starts using and eventually becomes dependent on these substances. Factors like psychological scars and physical injuries can increase a person’s chances of abusing drugs or alcohol.

Highlighting the Prevalence of Addiction

It can be easy for people to attach a negative stigma to addiction because they believe that they will never have to deal with this problem in their own family. However, studies show that addiction is a prevalent and growing public health crisis that can affect people from all walks of life.

Removing the stigma of addiction may be accomplished by showing people how common it is and how it can impact even the most upstanding of families. By demonstrating that addiction does not discriminate, medical experts may be able to remove some of the negative stigma attached to this illness.

Encouraging Forgiveness

Addiction garners such negative attention from people because they may feel betrayed by people in their circle of friends or families who have turned to drugs or alcohol. They find it difficult to forgive those individuals and thus shun or mistreat them.

Likewise, those with addiction are often unable to forgive themselves for becoming dependent on these substances. By encouraging forgiveness, rehabilitation specialists and doctors can help remove the negative stigma of addiction. They can highlight the fact that it is a medical condition that requires professional treatment and that there is no sense in scrutinizing them unfairly.

Showcasing Successful Recoveries

Finally, removing the stigma of addiction may be accomplished by showcasing the success stories of people who have beaten this illness. Many people who are ignorant of this sickness believe that it can be difficult or impossible for someone in the throes of addiction to beat it. They may give up hope and falsely believe that the addict will end up dead because of continued drug or alcohol use.

It is true that those with addiction who do not get help more than likely will succumb to their illness. However, millions of people beat this sickness each year. By showing the public that addiction is a medical condition that can be successfully treated, doctors can remove the stigma and give new hope to people who felt helpless because of it.

Drug and alcohol addiction is a legitimate sickness that affects millions of people each year. It has a negative stigma that pushes someone with addiction to the outskirts of society. These methods may be the first line of defense in removing that stigma and leading people to full recovery.

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