Stigma is a term that represents the complex attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and structures that interact and may manifest prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviors. Stigmas exist across the board when it comes to groups of people, types of professional industries, etc. One particular group of people who constantly face a stigma are addicts.

While there is an abundance of accurate information available about substance use disorders, there is still an abundance of inaccurate information floating around as well. Today we’d like to discuss what addiction actually is, why there is a stigma surrounding addiction, and how we can help you or your loved one today at Atlanta Recovery Place.

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a chronic, but treatable medical disease that involves complex interaction and genetics brain circuits, the environment, and individual life experiences. In simpler terms, addiction is a brain disorder, also known as an illness, that can take over many aspects in your life. 

When first consuming a substance, it may make people feel good, but after a while they may have to take the substance just to feel normal again. When continuing to use drugs to make you feel normal, this can cause negative consequences. The dependency on a substance can cause biological, psychological, emotional, social, and socioeconomic problems. Addiction can affect anyone regardless of the age, race, or gender. Addiction does not discriminate. 

Drugs and alcohol can change how one’s brain works and these changes can last for a long time. The changes in the brain can cause problems in a person’s behavior and/or emotional state. People suffering from addiction can be moody, have trouble thinking, have memory loss, and have difficulty making decisions.

Why Is There a Stigma Surrounding Addiction?

Unfortunately, there is a stigma surrounding addiction, especially in regards to addiction medicine. It’s taken many years for society to accept and understand addiction as a chronic brain disease and that there is a possibility of remission and recovery. 

The public, healthcare providers, and even the justice system have continued to view addiction as a result of moral weakness and flawed character. Healthcare providers may even see their patient’s drug or alcohol problem as their own fault and may even reject individuals who are seeking treatment. People who show intoxication or withdrawal symptoms are sometimes removed/expelled from emergency rooms by staff because they are fearful that these individuals are only seeking drugs. People with addiction may internalize this stigma, and feel shame and refuse to seek treatment as a result. Due to the current COVID-19 Pandemic, the stigmatization of people with addiction may even be more problematic. 

There are numerous factors that influence stigma about mental disorders and substance use disorders. These factors are:

  • Blame: Others may blame the individual for their addiction and not take into account any other factors. 
  • Stereotypes of dangerousness and unpredictability: Individuals may believe that those with substance abuse disorders and mental health disorders are dangerous. These stereotypes can influence public policy in terms of restricting the rights of those with behavioral disorders. 
  • Knowledge about mental and substance use disorders: Knowledge about these disorders as brain diseases may produce mixed attitudes and behaviors toward those with mental health and substance use disorders.
  • Contact and experience: Increased contact with those who have a mental illness or substance abuse problems does not mean that this will reduce stigmatizing beliefs. Some have found this may even increase the stigma due to the confirmation bias.
  • Media portrayals: The media portrays mental illness and substance abuse disorders in negative perceptions. This may stoke fear and intensify the perceived dangers of those who have the disorders. 
  • Race, ethnicity, and culture:  Several factors may influence stigma and this could be a bias or discrimination. 

How Atlanta Recovery Place Can Help You Today With Addiction

Here at Atlanta Recovery Place, we understand the consequences of stigma and how it affects those recovering from an addiction. We also know the stigma can discourage addicts from seeking help. We hope that the stigma surrounding addiction can one day be removed. In the meantime, our staff is working tirelessly to help all of our clients achieve long term sobriety.

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please reach out to us today. A member from our team will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding addiction and treatment!  

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