Stigma, Substance Misuse and dependance.
Sure, it’s your own fault!
Stigma, Substance Misuse and dependance.
The term ‘Stigma’ can be best understood as a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that people have about a particular circumstance, quality or person.
These negative beliefs are mainly fueled by misinformation, there is a great deal of stigma surrounding addiction causing; avoidance, rejection, and discrimination, ultimately stopping people from seeking the help they so desperately need.
One thing ARC Fitness aims to do is to change the conversation around alcohol/drug dependence. It does this by being transparent and honest about the realities of dependence and reinforcing this through evidenced based education provision.
Why do we Stigmatise people with addictions?
Well to put it simply, we blame the person! We make it a “Fault” issue. Viewpoint is oftentimes perpetuated by a lack of valid and relevant information.
Science has shown us that addictions are chronic, often progressive, yet treatable mental health conditions, however, society has not yet caught up. More than 76% of people believe that addiction is fully or partially a choice (Webster. 2016).
I do accept that there is an initial choice to use a substance in the beginning, however my intention was definitely NOT to become dependent. This dependence often comes as a result of a combination of factors, including genetic vulnerability and environmental influences.
However, like other health issues, addiction requires treatment, and those individuals in treatment deserve respect and support, just like anyone else.
It affects more than the person!
Stigma can cause individuals (as well as their families or other loved ones) immense shame, which, in turn, can prevent them from seeking treatment. These negative perceptions can be changed by compassionate, empathetic and kind approaches to help and support.
Whether we like it or not, Stigma can also influence the personal biases of medical professionals (they are human after all). These biases can make some healthcare practitioners less likely to adequately treat or consider the wider implications of individuals with addictions or behavioural health issues.
Stigma affects our society as a whole. Untreated cases of substance misuse and dependence can lead to increased pressure on healthcare budgets and the legal system.
Another important point is that Individuals with a history of addiction may also have difficulty finding employment, which can lead to increased welfare costs to society.
These beliefs underscore the stigma that continues to surround substance use and behavioural health disorders, preventing policymakers from developing and supporting initiatives to help individuals recover.
Stopping the Stigma
We pointed out earlier that the stigma of addiction is strongly linked to a lack of education and understanding. There is no quick fix to change a culture however, there are steps to take to make a start.
1: Speak up & Share your Experience
Each person’s struggle with addiction is different. There is no one size fits all. When people join together to share their experiences, strengths, and hopes, it can help to combat stigma.
This should include:
• Individuals in recovery.
• Friends and family of those in recovery.
• Treatment providers.
• Organisations who support treatment and recovery.
Individuals who are in recovery from addiction are often the strongest advocates for ending stigma.
2: Education & Information Provision
Providing accurate information and NOT just personal opinion about the preventable and highly treatable nature of addiction can help to inform the general public. There are many local and national organisations working hard to educate the public and change how society views individuals with addictions or those in recovery.
At ARC Fitness we firmly believe that an individual should not be defined by their addiction. Those who struggle have families, loved ones, and friends just like everyone else, and in my experience, they often contribute to society in many positive ways.
There is much more to them than their addiction.
Trust me, I am walking proof!