The stigma behind drug addiction and substance dependency has been one of the major drawbacks for researchers, care providers, and patients for detox programs in San Diego County and abroad. Many patients who are in desperate need of addiction services feel scared or helpless when seeking treatment because of the way the disease is treated by the public. This is creating a barrier to entry that’s quickly becoming a National health problem.
Drug Addiction in the US
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse over 70,000 people died of overdose in 2017. While prescription opiates have the highest death rate, other drugs are still climbing steadily in fatality rates. It’s clear that addiction is a snowballing problem, one that is not only reaching more families throughout the US, but becoming progressively more lethal. We have to take action to overcome our dependence on drugs and alcohol. But before we can overcome addiction, we have to overcome societal stigmas regarding the disease.
The Stigma of Addiction
Addiction has been depicted as a personal failing for decades. All current research points to the opposite. Addiction is a complicated disorder influenced by environmental and genetic factors. Drugs are designed, often synthetically, to be acutely effective in influencing our behaviors.
The belief system that drugs and addiction are “sins” ignores the very nature of the disease. These substances are often developed to fill very human, essential needs. Pain tolerance. Relaxation. Treatment of other disorders. When we need a drug to manage chronic pain, it should come as no surprise that we can become dependent on it, which is why opiates like prescription painkillers have been one of the fastest growing addictions.
Slowly, but surely, public opinion is starting to reflect this plethora of new research. Parity laws were passed in the US that treated addiction and substance dependence the same as other chronic disorders, like mental health, diabetes, and heart health. The “Not in my Backyard” syndrome, where residents refuse to put in public service facilities, like addiction treatment centers or temporary housing, are also quickly becoming a thing of the past, with recent legislation encouraging progressive goals for communities to heal.
The 12-step program, used in AA and treatment centers worldwide, is designed with the stigmas and social repercussions of addiction melded into the healing process. As we mentioned earlier, before we can heal from addiction we have to admit to it. We have to overcome the stigma behind addiction, admit we are ill, and develop the tools, skills, and resources to overcome drug dependence.
Drugs and alcohol can cause us to burn bridges, isolate ourselves, and push others away. For true recovery, we have to overcome our fears, our stigma, and our past to reconnect with others. That can mean addressing a mighty elephant in the room. Learning more about the disease, preparing for those conversations, and helping others move beyond addiction is how we can finally turn the tide on addiction and overcome these stigmas once and for all.