Addiction is unlike any other disease, and addicts are people who are totally out of control. At least, that’s what it seems the rest of the world believes when they talk about substance abuse problems and addiction stigma.
With the exception of sexually transmitted infections, substance abuse is perhaps the most stigmatized health condition that exists today. The late comedian Mitch Hedberg perhaps said it best: “Alcoholism is a disease, but it’s the only disease you can get yelled at for having.” People who are in recovery often know all too well the social costs that can be attached to the label of “addict.”
If you don’t believe addiction is stigmatized, turn on any 24-hour news channel or flip through any newspaper. These media outlets tell the same story over and over again: A drug addict was high on drugs and did something horrible. Stories about drug addicts tend to perpetuate the false belief that all drug addicts are dangerous, unpredictable, and morally beyond redemption. The media often uses derogatory terms like, “junkie,” “addict,” “drunk,” or “lush” to remove people with substance abuse problems from the realm of humanity.
Drug policies that have favored incarcerating substance abusers instead of getting them treatment have reinforced the perception that drug addiction is morally reprehensible behavior that should be punished.
Many Former Users Find Comfort Together
People with substance abuse problems are often relegated to church basements where they can anonymously meet in groups to find their own sort of underground camaraderie. These same people often choose to keep a low profile in the outside world, fearing that their personal successes and failures with substance use will become part of the public record. Finding camaraderie is crucial to maintaining sobriety, and many people manage their battle against the social stigma of addiction in the embrace of support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous.
New Groups Seek to Destigmatize Addiction
However, things don’t have to remain this way, and some groups have started to take action against the stigma that keeps substance abuse in the shadows. Faces & Voices of Recovery is a grassroots organization that has led the fight against the addiction stigma in recent years.
Instead of keeping addiction underground, out of sight, and anonymous, Faces & Voices of Recovery has encouraged people to “come out” as substance abusers. The idea is that the more people who are open about their struggles with substance abuse, the more normalized substance abuse will become, and the easier it will be for people to seek treatment without fear of social repercussions.
Suffering from substance abuse can be a lonely, isolating condition. But treatment can be effective, and the stigma against substance abuse won’t last forever. Call Serenity House Detox at to learn about how you can confidently start your own recovery.