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Addiction Stigma: What It is, Why It’s Deadly and How to Help

Mother helping her adult son overcome addiction stigma
Don’t let the stigma of addiction prevent your loved one from getting help. Educate yourself, show empathy and offer your emotional support.

Addiction stigma is a mark of disgrace created and imposed by society that unfairly and inaccurately stereotypes people who are suffering from a substance use disorder, a condition in which the use of one or more substances causes significant impairment on health and daily lives. According to the commonly held stereotype, addicts are to blame for their disease because they lack the willpower or the character to stop abusing drugs or alcohol.

In this post, we’re going to dig deeper into the harmful effects of addiction stigma, why it’s inaccurate and how we can help our loved ones fight back to get the help they need.

Why the Stigma of Addiction is Deadly

Addiction stigma isn’t just about blaming the victims of substance use disorder. It’s about publicly shaming them and marginalizing their place in society. Deadbeats. Junkies. Hurtful words like these are all too commonly used to describe people who are suffering from what can only be defined as a chronic, often debilitating mental illness. Addicts are not deadbeats or junkies, they’re people who are suffering and need professional help.

Be this as it may, many addicts come to internalize these labels along with intense feelings of shame, regret, guilt and hopelessness. This heavy emotional weight – the direct result of unfair addiction stigma – is what often prevents our loved ones from reaching out for the help they need. And, the longer a substance use disorder goes untreated, the more likely it is to result in permanent physical damage or even death.

How to Help Your Loved One Overcome Addiction Stigma

For those of you who are tired of watching a loved one struggle with the stigma of addiction, there are ways you can help. Here’s how to get started:

1. Educate Yourself and Your Loved One

The medical profession knows a great deal more about the chronic nature of addiction than it did even just a decade ago. From the way addiction works to its widespread prevalence, we are learning more about substance use disorders every day. By educating yourself, your loved one and even other family members, you can begin chiseling away at the wall of stigma keeping addicts from treatment. Feel free to browse the content on our website to get started, or check out these great resources:

2. Be Empathetic, Not Judgmental

In many cases, people struggling with addiction are severely critical of themselves. They don’t need to feel judged by the people close to them. Instead, try to focus on understanding your loved one’s pain and the underlying emotions that might be contributing to both the chemical dependence and the fear of asking for help.

3. Offer Your Emotional Support

One of the best ways to fight back against addiction stigma is to reassure addicted loved ones that they are not alone. Simply knowing that someone is there to support them before, during and after addiction rehab can be enough to give them the courage to ask for help.

Join a Support Group for Family Members of Addicted Loved Ones

Addiction doesn’t just impact the person with the substance use disorder. It also affects everyone around that person. Over time, this can and probably will take a toll on you. This is why we recommend connecting with an addiction support group for family members of addicted loved ones. Just being able to talk to other people who understand what you’re going through can help you relieve stress and give you new insight on how to help your loved one. Here are some support groups in the Colorado area:

Find Hope at The Raleigh House

If someone you care about is struggling with addiction, don’t wait to get help. We offer comprehensive addiction rehab in Colorado that focuses on treating the person as a whole – not just a set of symptoms. Our drug treatment program combines nutrition and exercise with both group and individual counseling led by master’s-level addiction therapists. Fill out our form, or call today.

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