The Stigma of Addiction

Stigma in Addiction Treatment

Friday, September 18, 2020 | By Cooper Samp

Stigma creates damaging erroneous beliefs surrounding individuals suffering with substance use disorder. “Stigma” is a term defined as “a mark of disgrace or infamy.” These stigmas therefore create harmful effects to those suffering from damaging drug use or psychological health problems. Although substance misuse often causes unpredictable behavior and impaired judgment, research reveals that most of these negative impacts come from chemical changes to the brain. Those suffering from dependency continue to be stigmatized by society as addiction is commonly viewed as an immoral doing rather than a disease. Through this lense, there is little to know empathy towards those suffering, by both the general public and even family members and friends. This unfavorable perception has made it difficult to advance the industry and more importantly creates a barrier for individuals to seek help.

Understandably, stigma causes embarrassment and shame amongst those struggling with addiction. The mix of personal shame and public stigma is looked at among the main barriers to effective addiction treatment. This fear and shame stop a lot of people from getting the help they need.

Research shows that only one in ten Americans experiencing substance use disorder receives professional treatment for substance abuse. In addition, society’s stigma, negative attitude, and perceptions towards dependency keep individuals under-diagnosed and under-treated. Also, research and treatment programs are under-funded, especially compared to other main health conditions currently affecting our nation. While drug abuse continues to be among our country’s most prominent epidemiology concerns, there is an absence of effective treatment and mental health resources.

Substance Use Disorder is a Treatable Condition

Regretfully enough, most people see addiction as a moral or criminal concern instead of a health one, despite scientific findings establishing the condition as physiological. Comprehending the physical impacts of dependency remains mostly misunderstood and extensively marginalized by traditional medical professionals. Our nation continues to suffer from the disastrous effects of the deadly opioid crisis. We continue to pay the high price for years of overlooking the sufficient and effective healthcare resources needed to face extremely stigmatized addiction issues.

Time for Change

It is time we stop seeing and dealing with those suffering from substance abuse as unethical or harmful. No one wishes to feel lesser than, especially those having a hard time emotionally. Alcohol and drug abuse have only increased over the last years, and overdose rates have skyrocketed. People frequently lose their family, close friends, and jobs. They continue to utilize drugs despite the emotional and physical effects. Sadly, numerous end up losing their life to an overdose. However, this condition is not just treatable, but also avoidable.

Stigma in Healthcare

The addiction and psychological health crisis continues to get worse without much adjustment in the healthcare system. It takes a lot of courage to request help and admit there’s a problem. It is our job as healthcare providers to react with compassion and understanding. It is all too common for a patient confessing their drug use problem to be met with criticism and even let go by the service provider due to being a liability. This type of medical rejection frequently leaves patients feeling hopeless and without the courage to seek further resources or support.

Emergency Rooms and Drug Addiction

Hospital emergency clinics receive an influx of patients struggling with opioid withdrawal. ER personnel are typically busy, overworked, and need to operate with minimal resources, specifically now during COVID-19. These truths, together with a lack of education about drug dependency, typically turns into client dismissal – who frantically need immediate medical aid – as ‘drug-seeking.’ Instead of turning their backs on clients, ER should have specialized personnel to direct these patients into medically assisted detoxification, followed by providing mental healthcare resources. Instead, addicted individuals go back to the streets and continue utilizing drugs.

Sadly, this fault in our healthcare system perpetuates the cycle of dependency. Each time a health care worker misses the chance to provide the proper level of care, a life may be lost.

The Need for Change in Addiction Treatment

Rehabilitation facilities throughout the country are overcrowded since there is insufficient access to substance abuse treatment, let alone sufficient care. Since facilities do not properly attend to each client’s emotional and medical needs, repeated treatment is also widespread. As a result, the real issues that caused dependency go neglected, and prompt relapse is inevitable.

To ensure those struggling with addiction or psychological health conditions receive the aid they need, we need to fix the damaged system. We need to inform the public about how different substances can affect the sympathetic nervous system and how the majority of people impacted by drug use do not have enough control over their actions and behavior.

All levels of health care professionals need to get training on the intersection of substance abuse and psychological health, in addition to how to provide appropriate care for those patients. They can start the healing process by treating clients compassionately and with the best level of care.

The Benefits of Medically Assisted Detox

There are lots of kinds of drug treatment centers, but clinically assisted detox ought to be offered as the standard of care. Medically assisted detox is the most efficient way to help an individual withdraw from opioids safely and comfortably. The chance of completing detox is practically certain, yet the health care system does not acknowledge this treatment.

As it is now, only those who have the resources to look for personal treatment can receive this level of care. There is no reason why everybody in need will not receive the best type of treatment for opioid withdrawal.

Knowledge and understanding reproduce empathy, an outstanding tool against stigma. The faster we educate the public, the more lives will be saved. We must alter public views on drug abuse and treatment so that this crisis ends.

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