There is considerable social stigma surrounding drug and alcohol addiction, despite our greater understanding of it being a disease that can be treated. Unfortunately, for some people in great need of drug addiction treatment, they feel the taboos of addiction are such that they risk harsh judgment from others if they are seen to be seeking help. For this reason, many people are suffering in silence and isolation rather than pursuing drug rehab, risking grave consequences to their mental and physical health by not receiving treatment.
The problem is that we tend to characterize people with addiction issues and the images we associate with them are very negative. Addicts are perceived to be unemployed, homeless and lacking moral fiber, whereas the reality is that people from all socioeconomic backgrounds can become victims of addiction. There are even what are known as ‘functioning addicts’ – people who on the surface of it are holding down high-flying jobs and achieving career success while concealing issues with substance abuse from everyone around them.
Ultimately, addiction does not discriminate and there is no standard profile of an addict. Perhaps if there were, we would have fewer people suffering from addiction disease behind closed doors, who continue using because no-one suspects they have a problem. Clinging to negative perceptions of addicts is dangerous as it allows those who fall outside the accepted characterization of addiction to hide their issues or fail to seek treatment for fear of being exposed as socially unacceptable.
Addiction Does Not Imply Criminality
There is a widely held belief that people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol are likely to also be engaged in criminal activity. This is assumed behavior based on the other misconception that addicts are at the lowest end of the social scale and inevitably have to steal from others in order to support their addiction. Of course, these stereotypes are false, yet they can persist.
For more addicts to reach out for drug rehab without fear of harsh judgment, society needs to be more accepting of addiction as a disease that can affect anyone from any walk of life. It is also essential to understand that people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol deserve compassion and need to be treated like sick people rather than criminals. Drug rehab centers such as Ranch Creek Recovery provide an accepting environment in which people with addiction issues can be confident that they will not be judged, however social stigma still prevents many from seeking help at a drug addiction treatment center at all.
There is much more value to society in providing more education and treatment centers for addicts rather than using government resources to put them behind bars. Although addiction can lead to illegal behavior, it is often the last resort for someone unable to deal with the distressing symptoms addiction creates. A wider social acceptance of addiction is more likely to get addicts the treatment they need much sooner and before they spiral further into anti-social behavior.
The Problem of Increasing External Social Pressures
It is an unfortunate fact that human nature tends to divide people into groups of superiors and inferiors. We regard popularity as being a trait of a superior person and our interactions have become increasingly focused on reaffirming our social status among our peers. This is largely due to the huge growth of social media in recent years, which has provided the perfect platform for people to project an image of their lives that set out how they wish to be perceived.
There are many reasons why recreational drugs have been considered unacceptable in our society, and although addiction can affect people from any class, race, gender or age, sensationalized media coverage has assisted in forming a stereotypical image of an addict that has no basis in fact.
Taboos associated with drug and alcohol abuse and even people who openly support drug policy reform or campaign to raise awareness of addiction hold negative assumptions about the people who use drugs they consider abusive. Society still seems to somehow ‘grade’ severity of addiction according to the substances involved, with varying degrees of acceptance of the substances involved.
For example, alcoholism is much more generally understood as an issue and there are fewer negative perceptions of alcoholics than there of heroin addicts. This is most likely to be down to the fact that alcohol is not illegal and most people like a drink from time to time, whereas street drugs involve illicit and illegal behavior that increases negative perceptions of the people who use them.
The Dangers of Drugs Require a National Conversation
Addiction is not only a problem for people who are suffering from the disease and those around them. We have a national obligation to educate and raise awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol in order to understand them better. By driving addiction underground through harsh judgment and misconception, the problem is likely to get worse. Increasing outreach programs and awareness campaigns that are dedicated to breaking the damaging taboos surrounding addiction are required to provide a more accepting landscape so that those in need of drug rehab are able to get the treatment they need.