Combatting the Deadly Myths and Toxic Conceptions of Drug Use
Anyone who has suffered or loves someone who suffers from addiction can tell you that society today can have a pretty skewed perception on what addiction is and why it looks the way it does. People are quick to see where addicts and alcoholics fall short, and the media doesn’t necessarily help give us a good name. Take the show shameless for example, Frank Gallagher is a horrible, disgusting addict and alcoholic who’s only real role on the show is to make the children’s lives difficult.
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Any time it looks like they might be moving forward, Frank comes and destroys everything. Those of us who have been in Frank’s shoes, or have been the children, are well aware of the potential and charisma that we addicts all share. However, when we are deep in our addiction, we can’t see any other way than the way we are living.
The Stigma of Addiction
It’s portrayed in movies, music, the newspapers, and probably on any street corner in the downtown area of every major city in the country. Addiction is alive and well in this nation, and it’s definitely not pretty. When most people think of an addict or alcoholic, chances are they picture a homeless person, a thug, a prostitute, or the smelly old man who sits at the same barstool every night and beats his wife when he gets home.
It’s easy for us to assume that people in these categories suffer from addiction, and it’s easy to throw the whole spectrum of addicts and alcoholics into an immediate “less than” category. However, if coming into the rooms of 12 step fellowships has taught me anything, it is that addicts and alcoholics literally come in all ages, financial, religious, and cultural backgrounds. The disease does not discriminate.
I’ve met the sweetest little old ladies who tell me about the absolute terror and destruction they used to cause, all the way to the punk 18-year-old kid who was diagnosed with ADHD at an early age and terrorized his small Midwestern town. I’ve met people who have come from money, and people who have come from nothing. I’ve met men and women of all different races, and sexual orientations, and occupations.
How Does the Stigma Affect Addicts?
According to NIDA, the stigma of addiction has more of an effect on the user than we may have realized. For example, people suffering from their addiction can become isolated, depressed, and afraid because they understand how strong the stigma is. For single mothers who want help, they may be too afraid to ask for help, out of fear that they can lose their children.
The stigma surrounding mental illness and addiction has shown a contribution to the rates of death, incarceration, and further mental illness, even the term dope fiend and the more modern usage of people referring to addicts as ‘feening for drugs can have a damaging impact on seeing the real struggle of the person using to regain control of their thoughts (and actions).
Long story short, since people are too afraid to ask for help, they never receive it.
What Can We Do About All the Confusion?
Well, to start, there are organizations out there working for the fair treatment and acknowledgment of addict and alcoholics. One branch of these advocates coordinate groups called Harm Reduction Organizations.
Harm Reduction groups are made up of sober addicts, active addicts, and loved ones of addicts who facilitate equal rights for all addicts. Their main goal is to help lawmakers and local governments understand that although America’s war on drugs is ongoing, it is never going to stop people from using drugs. So they want to ensure that while people are still using, which they always will, they have the necessary health care and safe means by which to do so.
For example, Harm Reduction programs around the world have aided in the creation of safe needle clinics, where injection users can go to administer their drugs with trained nurses nearby, clean needles, and showers and food. This issue is obviously a hot debate topic because people feel that it encourages drug use. However, the countries where clean needle clinics and safe injection sites have been implemented have seen a dramatic decrease in the rates of HIV, overdose, and death. Some of the facilities also provide users with 12-step meetings, and drug counselors on hand to talk with anyone who seeks treatment.
If you are the parent or loved one of an addict, you may be at the end of your rope. However, studies show that when people feel ostracized and stigmatized, they are less likely to seek assistance. Here are some ways you can help to reduce the stigma of addiction in your own home:
- Offer compassionate support.
- Listen to your loved one, and try not to judge.
- Remember that this addict is still a person, who has simply lost their way.
- Try to avoid name-calling and debasement.
- Allow the person, when they are ready, to be able to be vulnerable. If they open up, try to be impartial to their previous acts.
On a Community Level
Thousands of people participate in the annual Recovery Month, sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, which takes place in September. College campuses and events take place all over the country to encourage the idea that mental health and addiction are serious problems, and that people who suffer from them are not alone. The general message states that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention and treatment are effective, and that people really can and do recover.
Nationwide, 1 in every 3 households is affected by addiction in some way. Regardless of whether you or your loved one is the sufferer, it is on everyone to offer support and encouragement to those who are affected by this disease. We can all help spread the word of recovery, to show people that it works, that there is a solution, and that we never have to live that way again.
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Freedom From Addiction
If you have found yourself or a loved one suffering from alcoholism or addiction, you are not alone! If you are ready to change your life and live free of addiction, then Find Addiction Rehabs can help. We give you the jump start to recovery you need, through referrals to the top facilities for addiction treatment nationwide, quickly and confidentially. Please don’t hesitate to call us now!
Anna M. joined Find Addiction Rehabs with extensive experience in the field of addiction treatment. As a former Nurse Practitioner in Miami, she found her passion for addiction treatment when a family member was lost to his disease. With each article and resource, she hopes to save other families from experiencing the anguish of a loved one’s passing due to drinking or drugs.