The Stigma of Addiction and How It’s Killing People

Written by Robert Castan | Edited By Editorial Team

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The Stigma of Addiction and How It’s Killing People

The stigma of addiction is interfering with the treatment of addiction and keeping many people suffering with addiction from getting the help that they need. A complex disorder that can impact every aspect of an individual’s functioning, it requires treatment that consists of many components.

Addiction stigma has become a public health issue. This is leading to problems with relationships, has a negative impact on self-esteem, and prevents those who suffer from addictions from seeking the help that they need to treat their addiction.

The stigma of addiction describes the negative, powerful perceptions that often accompany addiction and substance abuse. Defined as a set of negative beliefs held by a society or a group regarding a group of people or a specific topic. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports stigma is a major cause of exclusion as well as discrimination and has a significant impact on the abuse of human rights.

What is Dependence?

Dependence is a brain disorder. Those who have an addiction or a dependence on drugs have altered functioning or structure of the brain. Compulsive behavior is how dependence is expressed. The behaviors are strongly related to the changes that happen over time because of the repeated drug use. Because of this, the ability to control drug addiction and the dependence because of the cravings and compulsive drug use is difficult, even when it causes negative consequences socially and health-wise. After a dependence develops, the individual can frequently fail when attempting to quit the drug use.

The stigma of addiction - Shaming and addiction

Stigmas and Myths Associated With Addiction

There are many stigmas or myths associated with drug addiction. For example, many people think that people who abuse drugs don’t receive adequate punishment when arrested. The truth is that addiction is a health problem, and those who suffer from health problems should receive health services that they can benefit from instead of being punished.

Another misconception is that people believe as soon as someone goes into a treatment center they should get better immediately. Addiction is a chronic illness that can recur, and aftercare is necessary for a recovery that is full and successful.

Shaming and Addiction

Often, stigmas or shame accompany addictions. Sometimes self-stigmatization results because of the stigma perception from the public. Because of the negative stereotypes associated with any addiction, the individual starts to look down on himself or herself.

Self-stigmatization leads to the loss of self-esteem and in turn, acts out the negative public beliefs. Public stigma can exacerbate the feelings of discouragement and a negative picture of themselves and of their ability to recover from their addiction from rehab.

The stigma of addiction - Addiction and prescribed medications

The Consequences of the Stigma of Addiction

Although drug abuse is it an all-time high, there remains a high amount of judgment morally from the public. There are 31 million people in the world who suffer from a drug-related disorder, and during 2015, about 450,000 people died from drug use with 167,750 of them associated with disorders involving drug use, including overdoses. The rest of those deaths are the indirect result of drug use, including those who succumbed to hepatitis C, or HIV acquired from unsafe use of needles for injecting drugs. Those totals only relate to illicit drug use and don’t include the consequences of alcohol use or prescription drug abuse.

Dangers of Hiding the Addiction to Avoid the Negative Stereotypes

To avoid the stigma associated with drug addiction, many people try to hide their addiction. They are afraid of the stigma of addiction and how it will affect them and their family as well.

Addiction is a chronic disease and not a character flaw, and until more people realize that, there will be a stigma surrounding drug abuse and addiction. Avoiding addiction treatment can be very dangerous for the addict. It can result in serious physical and psychological harm to the individual struggling with addiction as well as their family and loved ones.

While there are scientific advances in understanding addiction scientifically, there remains a negative public view of addiction. Most people fail to understand the facts surrounding addiction, what it is, and how it works. In the meantime, addicts are postponing treatment and risking their lives by failing to get the help that they need. Addiction is a chronic disease, like hypertension, heart disease or diabetes, and it requires treatment from a qualified medical professional.

Seeking Effective Addiction Treatment

Addiction is a medical disorder, and it requires proper treatment. Like any other chronic conditions, it should be treated and addressed by a trained healthcare professional.

Addiction is managed with a long-term recovery plan. Treatment plans should be customized to meet the individual patient needs, and they must last long enough to be effective. It should be a comprehensive program that addresses the social, physical, and psychological needs of the patient and includes behavioral therapy as that has proven to be an essential part of addiction treatment.

If you are afraid to ask for help, now is the time to take the next step. Call SpringBoard Recovery and talk with a caring team member who can help you get control of your addiction.


  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/about-nida/noras-blog/2020/04/addressing-stigma-surrounds-addiction
  • STAT: https://www.statnews.com/2020/12/08/stigma-weaponized-helps-fuel-addiction-crisis/
  • Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fighting-back-against-the-stigma-of-addiction/
  • Science Direct: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/drug-dependence
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/frequently-asked-questions/there-difference-between-physical-dependence-addiction
  • National Institute on Drug Abuse: https://archives.drugabuse.gov/exploring-myths-about-drug-abuse
  • North Carolina Medical Journal: https://www.ncmedicaljournal.com/content/79/3/163
  • US National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5527047/

  • Author: Robert Castan

    Robert Castan is a member of the Executive Leadership Team at SpringBoard Recovery. Robert started his professional career as a house manager and has become an industry leader and trusted voice in the treatment world. He brings extensive knowledge of organizational growth, industry-leading outcomes, and comprehensive marketing to SpringBoard Recovery. Robert has been walking his own path of recovery for over 10 years. This path has truly driven his ambition to help make treatment available to others who are struggling with addiction. Robert finds great joy in traveling and keeping physically active, with an emphasis on biking. Robert resides in Arizona with his husband and two four-legged children.   The U.S. Alcohol Crisis, Still Deadlier Than the Opioid Epidemic   Zombies and Other Future Threats to the Health of American Youth Dire Mental Health: A Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Drug Addiction The Benefits of Rehab Center Staff Working Their Own Recovery Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Robert Castan on Successful Addiction Treatment and Entrepreneurship Castan: The road less traveled of addiction & recovery in Scottsdale Opioids & COVID Driving Phoenix’s Rising Fatal Drug Overdoses Opinion: The Opioid Crisis + COVID-19 = The Perfect Storm Successful Addiction Treatment Programs & Entrepreneurship

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