What People Think about Drug Addicts and Alcoholics in or out of Recovery and Treatment
When it comes to addiction, there is no doubt that there is a negative stigma surrounding many types of addiction, as well as harsh criticism for the addicts themselves.
noun: stigma; plural noun: stigmata; plural noun: stigmas
a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person. “the stigma of having gone to prison will always be with me”
Many people do view addiction as a disease and have a lot of compassion for addicts and their struggles.
However, many people refuse to see addiction as a disease and simply view every addict as irresponsible and worthless and bringing down society in general.
Some people are willing to help addicts with their plight, especially if they are the loved ones, family members, and close friends of the addicts in question.
There are also many people that don’t want to help addicts in any way and shy away from them and avoid contact altogether.
Also, some mean-spirited people are cruel and unkind to addicts in general.
The truth is that there is a real problem with addiction these days, and it is not only coming from the addicts themselves.
Some of the trouble comes from how the public treats addicts. Also adding to the difficulty are the many “good” people in the world that refuse to be compassionate and kind to addicts.
Instead, of showing addicts some compassion and understanding, these misguided souls treat them poorly.
An addict, especially one in a recovery or treatment program, deserves fair treatment during their attempted recovery from their illness.
The way the public views addicts can, and usually does, affect them on a day to day basis.
This viewpoint can depend on what someone happens to be wearing, who they are friends with, what they look like, how much they weigh, or even what job they hold. Society judges everyone as a whole.
Addicts get deeper and faster judgments and criticisms, probably due to some of their behaviors and dress habits.
This judgment can either do wonders for our self-esteem if the judgments happen to be positive or quite detrimental if the judgments happen to be on the negative side, even if those judgments are untrue.
Negative Judgments from Society
This constant judgment from the public is evident in all facets of society, in regards to all types of people, and from all demographics and ages. But, this judgment is especially evident when it comes to addicts, especially drug addicts dealing with illegal substances.
A large segment of the population has a somewhat strong viewpoint of what an addict is, how they are “supposed” to look, and how they are “supposed” to act. There is truly no harsher opinion than the one society puts on these poor addicts.
Unfortunately, not only is this extreme judgment harmful to the addicts in question, but it is harmful to society as a whole because it jeopardizes our humanity by taking away our ability to be compassionate, bit by bit.
When we judge an addict or put all addicts into one big category by stereotyping them, we are doing a complete disservice to the addicts themselves, and possibly pushing them further down the path of addiction.
But, there is a light at the end of this very dark judgmental tunnel.
The great thing about all of this is that we have free will, and we don’t have to judge anyone, let alone addicts, who happen to be struggling with a very serious disease.
We can choose kindness and non-judgmental compassion when it comes to addicts, and can also choose to be open-minded and helpful when it comes to how we treat addicts, which, therefore, will be better for the addicts and society as a whole.
Family Members and Close Friends of Addicts
This extreme judgment that we see on a day to day basis is not only evident when it comes to society and the public, but is a very common situation that occurs with family members and close friends of the addicts in question.
Many addicts face abuse, disdain, and judgment by the people who are supposed to be closest to them. They face this judgment and disdain simply because they happen to have an addiction that they cannot stop.
These family members and close friends of the addict they judge usually view the addict as making horrible choices and being a huge embarrassment to the family and the world, and they are completely blind to the addict’s intense plight and daily struggles.
And, the worst part of this all is that this is only the beginning of the downward spiral that an addict will face on their heartbreaking path of addiction.
When the people closest to an addict abuses them, ignores them, and treats them with disrespect and constant judgment and disdain, many addicts became quite worse over time and driven to an even deeper addiction.
The best way to treat an addict, especially if you are a close friend or family member, is to support them without enabling them. Try to offer kindness and compassion at all times, especially when they reach out for help. Offer guidance, understanding, and advice, or even just some tolerant companionship.
What Leads To Addiction?
It has been shown time and time again that many addicts become addicted following a detrimental event has happened in their life. It could be a divorce, death of a close friend, family member, or even beloved pet dying.
Often the loss of one’s job and their financial security, a catastrophe such as a house fire, damaging earthquake, traumatic event, or a serious illness, can trigger addictive behavior and eventually a problem.
Addicts come in all shapes and sizes, and no two addicts are the same. The reasons for addiction are just as varied as the human beings themselves.
The sad reality is that we all could fall down the path of addiction, especially if we face the wrong circumstances at the wrong time when we happen to be in a vulnerable state.
Addiction is viewed as a disease.
According to the website, www.centeronaddiction.org, “Addiction is defined as a disease by most medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
Like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease, addiction is influenced by behavioral, environmental, and biological factors. Genetic risk factors account for about half of the likelihood that an individual will develop an addiction”.
This definition perfectly exemplifies the reality of addiction and the reason that addicts need to be treated with kindness and compassion at all times, especially by the people closest to them. The truth is that they are suffering from a disease.
Another sad reality is that not all treatment of addicts is the same. Addicts are usually treated based on their addiction.
For instance, a large segment of the population treats an illegal drug addict much worse than an addict who is addicted to prescription drugs or an alcoholic.
A functional addict is not judged harshly in most cases, since they usually stay intact with society and societal norms and because their addiction remains hidden from the public.
The bottom line to all this is that the majority of people view all addicts in a negative light, void of compassion and kindness, and happen to treat illegal drug addicts the very worst.
Illegal Drug Addicts
Sadly, these horrible perceptions of addicts are part of the society that we live in today. Unfortunately, modern society and the behavior of addicts don’t seem to be contributing to a change in attitude.
According to www.chateaurecovery.com, a rehab recovery center located in Utah, “A new John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Study suggests people are significantly more likely to have negative attitudes toward those dealing with drug addiction than those with mental illness.
Most companies do not support insurance and helpful employment policies that benefit those dependent on drugs.
Housing owners and managers do not freely offer housing opportunities to applicants with active addiction issues.
Interestingly enough, the rehab center also conducted a study on how people view alcoholics and drug addicts. The findings showed that “Respondents were overwhelmingly unwilling to have a person with drug or alcohol addictions marry into their family or be willing to work closely with them.”
“They were more willing to accept discriminatory practices against persons with addictions, more skeptical about the effectiveness of treatment, and more likely to oppose policies aimed at helping addicts.”
So, what this study shows is that people are judging addicts in a harsh light, and are adverse to helping them in any way.
Even worse, the study also showed that many people are acting very discriminatory towards addicts, and express no hope for their recovery.
Prevalence of Addiction
There are many negative perceptions attributed to addiction. Rejection and ill-treatment by society only deepen the addiction and does not help in the recovery.
According to USA Today, the Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, stated that “1 in 7 individuals would experience substance addiction. A startling new statistic shows that an American dies every 19 minutes from opioid or heroin overdose”.
The surgeon general went on to state that, “We have to recognize that addiction isn’t evidence of a character flaw or a moral failing, it’s a chronic disease of the brain that deserves the same compassion as any other chronic illness, like diabetes or heart disease.”
Coming from the surgeon general, these are very powerful words that must be taken very seriously, as he views addiction as a disease, and not a lack of willpower.
Here are the other main statistics surrounding addiction in the United States today. According to AddictionCenter, in the year 2011, there were over 20 million Americans, over the age of 12, with an addiction (other than tobacco). And over 3 million people over the age of 12 received treatment for their addiction.
That statistic is a published fact, but it leaves out the fact that most addicts don’t get the proper treatment they need for their addiction.
The statistics also showed that over 100 people die every day from a drug overdose. According to the website, this number has tripled over the last 20 years.
The statistics show that currently, illicit drug use is highest among those aged 18-25 and that 2.6 million people who struggle with addictions have a dependence on both alcohol and drugs.
While there are many people with drug addictions but there are also just as many people with alcohol addictions. Alcohol is one of the most common addictions that affect Americans and is a huge cause for concern.
Society views illegal drug use as one of the worse addictions, but alcoholism has a longer troubling history and is equally as harmful and destructive.
Sadly, it would be almost impossible to change the way that society treats addicts, but as individuals, we do have the power to change the way that we each view and treat addicts.
We must have the compassion and kindness to view addicts in the same way as we would someone with any other disease because that is what addiction is, a very serious and heartbreaking disease.
We must all remember this fact and treat addicts with the love and kindness that they deserve.
Maybe it’s possible that once we individually start treating addicts with kindness and compassion, others will follow suit. Changing the way we view and deal with addicts could begin to create the change in society that is desperately needed.
To understand addiction, from the view of a professional that was once an addict and is now an Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University, please take the time to view this eye opening video.
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