The campaign will focus on how stigma impacts us all, and how it could very well be the single largest contributor to the mortality rates due to substance abuse disorders
For years Monica drank alone, in hiding from others, in order to escape the social stigma associated with alcoholism. And even more so when you are a woman. When it comes to alcohol and drugs, many people still rely on old stereotypes, e.g. while a drunk man is the life of the party, a drunk woman is a hot mess. This can induce a form of social self-control in women and drive them to drink alone, which amounts to taking a step towards addiction. Such experiences can also affect relatives who are ill-equipped to face the problem. “My partner was always trying to shame me while tracking the bottles I would hide all over the place. But in the end, it was always me who would outsmart him and get my daily doses” she said.
This is an example, among many others, of how stereotypes and stigma can make a bad situation much worse. They are actually common in all types of substance abuse disorders and all come from the fact that most people still believe that addiction is a character flaw or a weakness in a person.
Actually, stigma and discrimination are so rampant nowadays that they represent a major challenge for those who deal with problematic alcohol or other drug use. Stigmas are a major occurrence in these people’s everyday lives. They are imposed by society, communities, healthcare professionals, friends and even family members and can cause major discrimination and hurt.
These experiences are distressing and can result in people feeling anger, rejection and a sense of hopelessness and worthlessness which may trigger further alcohol and other drug use. They can create barriers to people seeking and receiving help to address their problem and can also hinder their ability to reconnect with their communities and access employment or educational opportunities. They can also compound social disadvantage and can lead to isolation and social exclusion which may result in adverse consequences on mental and physical health.
Despite the widespread agreement that addiction disorders are best understood as complex behavioral-biological scenarios that most often require treatment, the system we live in are hard-wired to prolong stigmatization, thus contributing to addiction’s lethality. In fact, the idea that those with addiction-related disorders are “weak, deserving of their fate and less worthy of care” is rooted so deeply that it is almost impossible to separate addiction from shame and guilt.
On the occasion the International Day Against Drug Abuse and illicit Trafficking, on June 26, the Dianova International will launch a campaign on the issue of stigma and discrimination. Through a series of articles and infographics, we will examine how stigma impacts us all, both consciously and unconsciously and how it could very well be the single largest contributor to the mortality rates due to substance abuse disorders. Lastly, we will provide a number of recommendations designed to reduce the burden of stigma in people with addiction disorders and targeting policy makers, the public at large, the media, the healthcare community and the private sector.