Half of all lifetime cases of drug addiction in the United States begin before the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24.
Despite this, it takes an average of 8-10 years from the onset of symptoms to intervention.
Since drug addiction stigma prevents people from seeking help, just around half of the 44 million adults in the United States will receive treatment in any given year.
Although public perceptions of drug addiction have improved in recent years, research reveals that stigma against those who suffer from it remains strong. In fact, most people associate drug addiction with negative stigmas at a much higher rate than other diseases and impairments.
Let’s find out how stigma prevents patients from seeking help in addiction cases.
What Is Addiction?
Addiction is defined as the inability to stop taking a substance or engaging in an activity even though it is harmful to one’s mental and physical health.
The term “addiction” does not simply refer to drug addiction, such as heroin or cocaine. Some addictions may include the inability to stop doing things like gambling, eating, or working.
Addiction is a long-term illness that can develop due to medication use.
In fact, the overuse of opioids, notably illicitly manufactured fentanyl, resulted in nearly 50,000 deaths in the United States alone in 2019.
What Causes Stigma?
Stigma is mainly associated with the negative feelings we have for people struggling with drug addiction. Unfortunately, medical professionals often harbor negative feelings for addiction patients, which hampers the treatment approach.
The substance abuse rehabilitation in California and Drug Rehab in Los Angeles are an exception to this rule, and they treat drug addiction patients with utmost care and concern. Let’s find out the root factors that cause stigma.
(i). Media Stereotypes
Only a small percentage of people with drug addiction cannot operate normally in society.
However, because the media frequently portrays drug addiction as a stereotype, it is accepted as “reality.”
The media’s focus on violent crimes committed by drug addiction exacerbates this perception.
In reality, only a small percentage of addicted people become violent and cause injury to themselves or others.
However, by bringing these incidents to public attention, the media only attempts to entertain people, not educate them, which is a major reason behind the drug stereotype.
(ii). Inadequate Knowledge
Most people do not know that addiction is a mental health disease, and it takes more than willpower to overcome this.
Even though research is constantly progressing, resulting in a better knowledge of the causes of drug addiction and its treatment approaches, people have not harbored a sympathetic feeling towards its victims yet.
On the other hand, our educational system has not kept up with the expanding understanding of this illness.
Without accurate knowledge, movie and news images build unquestioned definitions that appear to be true.
How Stigma Prevents Patients From Seeking Help In Drug Addiction?
The considerable stigma connected with drug addiction makes it difficult for those who are suffering to seek help.
When friends, coworkers, bosses, or neighbors learn that you have an addiction problem, they often label you as a ‘junkie,’ ‘meth-head,’ ‘addict,’ etc.
Thus, addiction patients postpone getting treatment, fail to take prescriptions, isolate themselves, and lose self-esteem because they are afraid of being “found out.”
Individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) face the stigma that harms their emotional, mental, and physical health. In addition, people with SUD are frequently stereotyped as unpredictable, dangerous, and ethically culpable.
Reduced access to care, incapacity to make treatment decisions, and forced or compelled therapy may result from the community’s prejudiced and discriminating ideas.
Furthermore, stigma harms policies and programs to treat substance abuse and other addictive diseases. People with addictive disorders may experience self-stigma, which can influence their behavior, such as reducing their use of healthcare facilities and lower health outcomes.
Internalized stigma and self-stigma have been associated with higher levels of mood disorders and lower quality of life.
People with substance use disorders (SUDs), in particular, may be stigmatized by healthcare professionals. As a result, addiction disorders and concurrent COVID-19 may not receive proper care during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is a significant issue.
As a result, during the COVID-19 pandemic, people with SUDs may face greater stigma in several nations. This increased stigma and discrimination toward people with SUDs may result in clinicians, policymakers, and other stakeholders providing insufficient care or attention.
How To Reduce Stigma?
Eradicating stigma from drug addiction cases is tough, in part because the rejection of people with addiction is based on societal norm violations.
Persons in all areas of healthcare, from emergency room workers to physicians, nurses, and physician assistants, must be trained to care compassionately and competently for people with substance use disorders. The first step is to treat people with dignity and compassion.
There needs to be a greater understanding of factors outside of an individual’s control, such as genetics or the environment in which they are born and raised.
These factors often have a significant impact on susceptibility to the brain changes associated with addiction, and medical care is frequently required to aid recovery and prevent the worst outcomes, such as overdose.
When persons with addiction are ridiculed and rejected, especially by those in the medical field, it just feeds the vicious cycle that perpetuates their illness, so it must be stopped.
According to studies, prejudice and discrimination against drug addiction patients is widespread and often as debilitating as the condition itself.
People with drug addiction problems are frequently denied employment, denied housing, discriminated against at work, and mistreated by family, friends, and religious organizations.
This stigmatization only prevents them from getting better and seeking the help they need, which is why we all must be a little more compassionate towards them instead of ridiculing and shaming them for their actions.
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