The Stigma of Addiction

The way people view substance abuse and addiction can complicate issues and deter those suffering from getting the help they need

The stigma against addiction and abuse that it is a moral failing and not a disease creates shame amongst those affected by it. Created by: Keith Brown

The Stigma Surrounding Addiction

The definition of addiction stated by the National Institute of Drug Abuse is a chronic illness or disease that inhabits the need or seeking of substances for use. Addiction is considered “brain altering” because of the chemical reactions in the brain when drugs are taken. The most important thing to know about addiction is that it can lead to more destructive and harmful behavior to not only the addict, but also to people around them – like friends, families and law enforcement. Treatment options are available to help this disease, but it’s the stigma of addiction that frequently holds people back. Addiction specialist Brynn Cicippio said, “If one person says they have cancer and another says they are addicted to heroin, you will get a completely different response from people.”

Addiction and substance abuse are topics that are hard to talk about, even if you know someone or know about someone who is addicted. The media plays an important role in portraying addicts and overdosing as well as publicizing the scope of the epidemic. Angel Babbar, a 42 year old woman who lost her father to addiction, said, “You see on the news almost weekly a 20-year-old child has passed away from accidentally overdosing. Kids don’t just die.”

The stigma of addiction and substance abuse is one America faces on a day-to-day basis. Although there are treatments and rehab centers all across the country, the American people should not have to even be put in facilities for something such as addiction. The lack of education and preventions in everyday life such as schools is allowing children and young adults think it is okay to do drugs, become addicted and potentially overdose. If we start the education and prevention process at young ages and continue throughout adulthood, changes could be made to overdose and addiction rates in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heroin overdoses have quadrupled since 2010 and have increased in all demographics. 

Addiction should not be seen as a moral failing by any person suffering from the disease. It is common for someone who has become an addict to feel ashamed of their habits, resulting in not wanting help by refusing rehab. Addiction should not be seen as a moral failing and should be seen as a cry for help for friends and family to respond to. As Americans, the education and prevention of substance abuse and addiction is crucial for the well-being of people everywhere.

Written by: Brianna Morrell