The Stigma of Addiction

Stigma is defined as “a mark of shame or discredit”. This is especially damaging to people suffering from addiction, because it means that it should be something to be ashamed of. This thought process stems from actions and activities that happen as a symptom of the disease, such as: impaired judgement, legal issues, behavioral issues, damaged relationships and unscrupulous activities.

These actions can be damaging to families, careers and lives, which makes it understandable for the people involved to feel embarrassment or shame. For example: if a family member of yours who is suffering from addiction stole money from you to pay for their drugs, you would understandably be upset by it and think poorly of your family member for hurting you in this way. These are normal feelings to have.

However, it is important to remember that your family member is suffering from a disease, and their character should not be judged by these actions. They are still the same loving person you knew before their addiction, and it is important to keep that in mind instead of judging them, writing them off and not forgiving them. Show compassion for them and give them options for available help instead.

How It Affects Treatment

If a person is ashamed of their addiction, they are much less likely to seek treatment. It may be because they are too embarrassed, or have isolated themselves to the point that they have no one to reach out to for help. They are also more likely to hide their drug use to avoid embarrassment and shame, as well as spiral into depression which will eventually further their drug use.

Additionally, people suffering from addiction will do their best to deny that they are a person with substance use disorder to family and friends who confront them. This is in order to avoid being stigmatized and feeling “less than” for suffering from addiction. They deny their drug use instead of asking for help, because they feel as if their “pride” is more important than receiving help for their disease.

How to Stop the Stigma

Addiction can be perceived as a “self control” issue, rather than an actual disease, and this is one of the core reasons that people don’t treat is as the serious, chronic and fatal disease that it is. Simply telling someone, “why don’t you just stop using drugs?” is not a viable treatment option. This can go the same for depression and anxiety, with phrases such as “why don’t you just cheer up or go outside?”.

Showing compassion

An easy way to do your part in stopping the stigma attached to addiction is to simply show compassion. This can start by not judging someone based on their physical, visible symptoms against another disease.

Visible symptoms can include anything from dry skin patches from the disease of eczema, or the bald head and weight loss of someone going through cancer treatment. When we see these things, we feel compassion for the person experiencing these diseases. However, because of stigma, if we see someone with heroin track marks or extreme weight loss due to drug use, we judge them and think they are not a good person. Addiction is a chronic disease, and should be treated as such.

Offering Help

If you know someone who is suffering from addiction, do your best to offer them help. If they have isolated themselves from their family or friends, take some time to talk to them and educate them about the disease of addiction. The more we talk about addiction being a disease, the more the stigma will be lifted. If you display kindness to people in a vulnerable state, this will go a long way.

Avoid hurtful language and labels

Make sure you aren’t quick to judge someone who is suffering from addiction. Addiction takes many forms and people from all walks of life can suffer from it. Rich, poor, homeless or celebrities with mansions. If you avoid hurtful language, such as calling someone a “junkie” or “addict”, then you will be doing your part to stop the social stigma. If you see someone being mistreated or hear someone else using hurtful language, stand up for them.

About Cliffside Malibu

If you are suffering from addiction, do not be ashamed to ask for help. Your pride is not more important than your life. If you know someone who is suffering from addiction, offer them compassion. While it is very common for people suffering from addiction to hurt the ones around them, it is important to remember that it is a symptom of a much, much larger problem. A problem that requires help. We can help.

Each patient is then matched with one of these five stages of the Transtheoretical Model: Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance. An individualized treatment plan is created based on their current stage of change. This process is in place to ensure that all our patients receive the best treatment path possible for their own specific need. Our goal is to move individuals through their treatment by assessing their readiness for change and formulating stage-matched interventions in order to move them through their respective stage.

It is the policy of Cliffside Malibu to ensure that all individuals who present with chemical dependency issues are assessed for the appropriate level of care. We strive to provide continuum of care including medically supervised detox, residential treatment, day treatment and outpatient services. Services are provided to individuals with a primary diagnosis of substance abuse and/or alcohol addiction. Individuals seeking treatment are assessed by qualified staff to ensure program criteria are met and that each individual admitted is placed in the appropriate level of care for treatment. The program is designed and structured for individuals who are in need of a supportive environment in order to maintain Sobriety.

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