When it comes to addiction people cannot help themselves from creating this silent rating scale in their mind, like he’s just an alcoholic, she does too many prescription pills, and he is junkie because he does heroin. It is this kind of judging that creates the stigma that has created an almost permanent barrier for addiction recovery today.
The alcoholic’s disease is often ignored and the prescription pill addiction is often justified. The question is why when the heroin junkie has the same disease that these other folks have? Of course, the alcoholic and the prescription pill addict won’t hear of that, being compared to a heroin junkie, please? But it is true, they share a common bond, the same disease and not one is better than the other.
Addiction is classified as a disease of the brain and it doesn’t even have to be a substance that one is addicted to. People can be addicted to certain behaviors as well. Addiction is like cancer and don’t fool yourself it can very well be fatal. What stands in the way of people realizing this, stigma. Stigma is also what stands in the way of many from seeking addiction treatment.
People don’t think twice about seeking help for diabetes, cancer, or high blood pressure but refuse to seek help for a different disease, addiction. Instead, they ignore it or try to quit on their own, which rarely works and can be deadly. They really want to quit but because addiction is a disease, they cannot. Individuals with the disease of addiction are already very familiar with what shame is, they live it every day.
The big debate that has been going on for years is if an addicted individual does have a legitimate disease or if they simply suffer from a lack of will power or if they fall short on moral character. Labeling them as the addict or the junkie surely does not help.
This stigma spills on over to the families too. If Mrs. Jones runs into Mr. Smith at the grocery store she may share the news that her husband was just diagnosed with cancer with him and maybe even ask that he include him in his prayers. Odds are she would never share the fact that her son is addicted to drugs, even though both are viable diseases. Why? The answer is the stigma, she would be humiliated.
This is what keeps the disease of addiction swept under the rug. It is the reason that people turn their heads and try to wish it away. They feel like people will think less of them or there is this black flag swaying back and forth over their homes just screaming, “An addict lives here.” What will people think, where did I go wrong…and the saga continues.