Although the field of psychology and the responses of the general public have come a long way, mental illness continues to carry a strong stigma. Mention to a friend or co-worker that you take psychotropic medication, and you’ll likely be judged for it.
Our society has a hard time with areas of life it doesn’t understand, and the health of the mind is one of them.
This is especially true for alcohol and drug addiction. Each day there are thousands of men and women who won’t get drug treatment becomes of the stigma it bears.
Anyone who isn’t “normal”, such as those who are depressed, anxious, emotionally unstable, or experiencing an addiction, are frequently judged in our society.
Sadly, a recent study revealed that the stigma of an addiction carries more weight than the stigma of mental illness, which can prevent people from getting drug addiction treatment. It appears that many people believe that an addiction is an indication of a personal flaw.
The study was published in the journal Psychiatric Services and revealed that the general public is more sympathetic to mental illness than drug addiction.
The researchers from the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health surveyed 709 participants about their views on drug addiction and mental illness.
Their answers revealed that drug addiction is viewed far more negatively than mental illness. Their answers also revealed that there was opposition to policies that could help recovering addicts in achieving sobriety. The one similarity between answers regarding addiction and those on mental illness is that both were seen as treatable and that recovery from either is possible.
“While drug addiction and mental illness are both chronic, treatable health conditions,” said Colleen L. Barry, PhD, Lead Researcher, ” the American public is more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing than a medical condition.” According to the results of the study, an addict continues to be seen as bad or weak or having no morals, especially because plenty of drug use is illegal.
Because of the stigma against drug addiction, many people keep their struggles with drugs and alcohol to themselves, which prevents them from getting drug treatment. They are afraid of admitting their fears, their worries, and their inner struggles to spouses and the general public by admitting themselves to a drug addiction treatment center.
Instead, they feel the pressure to perform occupationally and socially to the point that it puts their lives at risk.
Hiding addiction only seems to make it worse. Yet, the stigma of addiction and drug use makes it difficult for individuals to talk about it, let alone get drug addiction treatment. The alternative is to hide what’s wrong and keep the addiction under the radar.
This is especially true for women. Research on substance abuse treatment and outcomes indicate that women and men differ in both their paths to addiction and their journey out of addiction. When taking into account the social roles that women take on, the stigma of substance abuse is a problem for women struggling with addiction.
The stigma and the associated shame keep them from seeking treatment.
They May Fear Losing Custody of Their Children, and Other Obstacles Include:
- Few resources for women with children
- Lack of collaboration among social service systems
- Lack of culturally congruent programming,
- Limited options for women who are pregnant
Of course, men also feel the stigma of addiction, and they face their own obstacles to drug treatment as well as obstacles to sobriety. However, research has shown that women are more prone to allowing the stigma and judgment of addiction to get in the way of seeking treatment.
Yet, the truth is, lives are at stake when it comes to addiction. For this reason, whether you are male or female, or whether you have a long history of drug use or not, drug treatment is necessary for a safe and successful transition to sobriety.
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