The stigma of drug addiction

Unfortunately, addiction (substance use disorder) is still highly stigmatized, preventing many people from getting the help they need.

While substance use disorder is one of our nation’s biggest public health problems, it’s too often perceived as a moral issue or a criminal matter rather than an illness. People with substance use disorders often suffer in isolation, are outcast, and even imprisoned. They suffer in shame, guilt, and embarrassment, terrified to find themselves in this situation. The initial decision to take drugs is usually voluntary, but with on-going use, drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting very difficult even for someone who wants to stop.

Belittling terms such as alcoholic, drunk, junkie, or crackhead perpetuate stigma and negatively affect a person’s self-esteem, damage relationships and prevent someone from getting access to the care they really need.

Studies show people who enter drug treatment programs as a result of loving pressure do better in treatment than those who are shamed or humiliated. At PHCA, we know substance use disorder is not a choice. It’s not a moral failing, it doesn’t only happen to “weak” people, and it’s not a character flaw.