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Stigma and the Toll of Addiction

Gleb Sergeyev - Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How many people do you think die each year due to drug overdose? According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), 67,367 people died in 2018 from drug abuse. The life expectancy in the United States is also decreasing due to the direct and indirect effects of drugs and alcohol. In order to change these trends, there needs to be an increase in the number of people who are getting evidence-based substance use treatment. However, one thing is standing in the way of that goal, and that is the stigma of addiction. Stigma not only delays and prevents access to treatment and care delivery, but it also contributes to the disorder on an individual level.

One challenging part about the stigma of addiction is that it can lead to individual behavioral changes that defy social norms especially during withdrawal or intoxication-triggered paranoia. The behavioral changes can include lying, stealing, or acting aggressively. These changes can make it hard to be compassionate towards those individuals, even for family members who are trying to help.

Stigmatizing views of healthcare workers can lead them to withhold care to those with a substance use disorder. For example, some hospital and emergency room workers may be dismissive of someone with an alcohol or drug problem because they don’t view it as a medical condition, therefore don’t see it as part of their job to treat them. Individuals who inject drugs may also be denied care at hospitals or emergency rooms because they are believed to be drug-seeking.

Not only can stigma prevent or delay care for those with a substance use disorder, but it also causes us to underestimate the burden of substance use disorders in the population. What a lot of people don’t think about is that when internalized, stigma and the painful isolation it produces encourage further drug-taking.

We cannot stigmatize treatment for people with addiction. We cannot ignore them or reject them. Instead, we must help them. Haymarket Center has emerged as a leader in the field of addictions and behavioral health treatment. We have done this through our evidence-based interventions and state of the art programming geared towards strong outcomes. Our theme that captures the spirit of Haymarket Center is "Focus on Success." To learn more about any of our programs, call us at 312-226-7984 or visit our website.

 

Sources

https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1917360

https://www.drugabuse.gov/news-events/news-releases/2020/04/stigma-addiction-addressed-in-new-england-journal-medicine

 

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