Diana and Mike Yoder know what it is like when addiction hits your family. Diana lost 9 family members in a three-year period and they have three members that are in recovery. It is something that they never thought would happen in their family, something they saw on a report in the news and prayed for the affected family.
They remember the sleepless nights filled with worry, the desperate research looking on Google or anywhere else they could find help to get out of the nightmare.
Society is not always kind to people who suffer from addiction. Whether they are still in the process of getting back on their feet or have been maintaining sobriety for years, society has a way of turning its back on these people because of the stigma that exists.
People wrongfully believe that those who abuse alcohol or drugs are “less-than” and often view them as disgraceful, moral failures or weak. The stigma of addiction has the potential to adversely affect a person’s self-esteem as well as damage relationships. But that is not all. Arguably, the worst effect the stigma of addiction is its ability to prevent those battling addiction from seeking or getting treatment.
The problem of stigma that society has on those that suffer from addiction can make substance abusers afraid to reach out to friends or other family members. There are people who believe that a person only developed an addiction if he had a weak moral character and an inability to control themselves. Because of this, people hide their or loved one’s addictions and pretend like everything was under control in their lives.
Words can do damage to a person in or seeking recovery.
Or, words can offer hope.
Words used like “clean” or “dirty” should be used for describing the dishes in the dishwasher, not people. But stigma also keeps people from seeking help. Using “addict” to describe someone struggling with a substance use disorder ignores the science and discredits the individual.
And for those that have lost someone it’s unimaginable pain. But unlike the support that erupts when other medical issues hit our neighbors, like cancer or Alzheimer’s, there are the offers for help, with prepared dishes of food, or sympathy cards and fundraisers.
Paying attention to the language that we use about addiction can help remove a major barrier to people asking for help.
Many people still don’t fully understand what addiction is and how it works. As a result, most people struggling with addiction still feel ashamed about their condition and avoid seeking professional treatment. This results in millions of people not receiving the addiction treatment that they need.
For more people struggling with substance addiction to seek out professional treatment, it is necessary for society’s view of addiction to change.
Change will occur when people realize that addiction is a chronic disease rather than a character flaw.
Sadly, there are some doctors and healthcare providers that treat patients differently due to this stigma, people who have experienced this treatment often have a hard time stepping foot into hospitals or doctors’ offices. Studies have found that some healthcare professionals are uncomfortable working with people who suffer from addiction. When health providers are skeptical or carry a stigma toward a person with addiction, it can affect the overall treatment of the patient and discourage them from seeking further treatment.
People may make a choice to have a drink or use a drug, but once a person reaches the point of addiction, that choice no longer exists—they lose all control. They might want to quit and may even try, but their brain has been rewired, which causes them to think and behave differently.
Think of the choices that many (Non-Addicts) make that effect their health. Does smoking effect a person’s health or eating the wrong amount or types of food on a consistent basis? Yet these choices and their consequences are filling medical centers.