The Stigma of Substance Abuse Treatment Is Not As High With Alcohol

Substance Abuse Treatment | LakehouseRecoveryCenter.comThe media is filled with stories about celebrities who get drunk, arrested for a DUI, and later enter an addiction treatment center. In 2001, for example, Ben Affleck entered drug rehab for alcohol abuse and remained sober for over a decade. Lindsay Lohan was arrested twice for a DUI in 2007 and Johnny Depp admitted that he had a serious alcohol addiction that was destroying his life. However, he managed to stop drinking and end his addition.

The actor Matthew Perry, who played Chandler on the TV sitcom Friends, was struggling with an addiction with drugs and alcohol. Recently, in an ABC News Interview, he admitted that he has was trying to find sober living for many years and that during the making of the show he was concealing a heavy addiction.  Perry admitted, “Mostly it was drinking, you know, and opiates. I think I was pretty good at hiding it but, you know, eventually people were aware.”

In a way, these stories of celebrities going through addiction and substance abuse treatment have helped make the stigma of having to get treatment less significant. A recent research found, however, that the stigma associated with drug addiction treatment was higher than with alcohol abuse treatment.

The Stigma of Alcohol and Drug Abuse

The research found that in those addicted to alcohol, brief therapy, a form of individual solution focused therapy appeared to have a positive influence but not so much with those addicted to illicit drugs. Leaders of the research speculated that the risky alcohol use is socially sanctioned and for that reason, individuals might be more prone to admitting that they have a problem and open to acquiring help for it. However, with illicit drug use, there are more complicated presenting issues that brief therapy and other addiction treatment services might not be able to address right away. And the use of illicit drugs might also be associated with other stigma-related issues such as mental illness.

Levels of Ambivalence

Furthermore, perhaps the level of ambivalence is higher with those who are addicted to drugs. Of course, each situation varies, and so this may not be true in all cases. However, ambivalence is the experience of holding two opposing views or opinions at the same time. For instance, let’s say you can admit that you are addicted to alcohol. It’s created big problems, like uncomfortable work situation, ruining relationships, getting kicked out of bars, and losing your significant other. At the same time, when you’re drinking, you feel good – for once! The feelings of being free, open, real, and alive keep you drinking despite the problems it brings. Knowing that drinking is both good and bad for you is ambivalence. Wanting to stop because of the problems but not wanting to stop because of how you feel when you’re drinking is ambivalence. It’s similar to having mixed feelings. However, it’s a little more serious than having mixed feelings because the ambivalence that is characteristic of addiction can become a trap that can keep an addiction going for years.

Breaking the Barrier

Yet, breaking through this barrier is precisely what drug addiction treatment is for. It provides support for individuals to see the choices they’re making and to begin to make healthier decisions that facilitate sobriety versus continued drug use. It’s important to keep in mind that according to the research mentioned earlier breaking through this barrier may also come with breaking through the stigma of getting substance abuse treatment.

Recognizing this is likely the main premise behind the first step in the Alcoholics Anonymous 12-step model. An individual needs to surrender and admit that he or she has a problem with drugs and/or alcohol. Despite the judgments and opinions of others, an addict finds addiction help by finally admitting that he or she needs assistance with breaking through the barrier of addiction.


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