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Smashing the Stigma of Addiction

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Posted on 20/10/20

Addiction stigma prevents too many people from getting the help they need.

Stigma is defined in the dictionary as “a mark of disgrace or infamy.” The stigma of addiction—the mark of disgrace or infamy associated with the disease—stems from behavioural symptoms and aspects of substance use disorder. For example, symptoms of alcohol and other drug dependency, such as impaired judgment or erratic behaviour, can result in negative consequences including legal, occupational and relationship problems. Understandably, these kinds of consequences cause embarrassment and shame among those afflicted and affected. They also create stigmatised attitudes and perceptions about chemical dependency among the wider public.

Many of the negative, stigmatising behavioural symptoms associated with the disease of addiction tend to diminish and abate when appropriately addressed and managed in recovery.

At the individual and family levels, alcohol and drug addiction is traditionally considered a private matter, something only whispered about. Even when the symptoms of the disease are obvious to all around, individuals and families too often avoid seeking help for fear of even acknowledging the problem. 

At the community and societal levels, the same undercurrent of addiction stigma keeps drug and alcohol dependency under-diagnosed, under-treated, under-funded and misunderstood by many, especially as compared to other chronic health conditions such as heart disease, asthma and diabetes.

While chemical dependency is one of our nation’s biggest public health problems, insufficient public resources are dedicated to confronting the problem. Drug and alcohol dependency is too often seen as a moral issue or a criminal matter rather than a health problem. Many public policies and practices related to housing, education, jobs, discriminate against individuals who have chemical dependency issues, even after they’ve established long-term recovery. And despite advances in understanding addiction as a disease, substance use disorder remains largely marginalized by the mainstream media, as well as many medical professionals starting with a lack of education and information on the realities of it in university studies as well as ongoing practice  and professional development. As evidenced by the continuing rise in alcohol consumption to very unhealthy levels, legal highs  being used by a much younger age group and the way this has been affecting families, organisations and society for many year and we are all now seeing the consequences and the price that this has and indeed still is being paid on our society as a whole for years of neglecting the fiscal and educational investments required to challenge the highly stigmatized disease of addiction.

How to Reduce the Stigma of Addiction

At Silkworth Lodge, we are committed to challenging the stigma, stereotypes and pessimism long associated with chemical dependency. Nobody sets out to become an alcoholic or drug addict and it is not a problem of morals or will power. It is a very powerful and confusing illness which destroys a person from the inside and also all those surrounding them.

Silkworth Lodge has proven to be a much needed establishment that helps people to come to terms with their addiction and puts them on the road to recovery. We provide a tailor made programme of treatment which helps the client to rebuild these relationships, regain their self esteem and most of all, enables them to integrate back into society on a new footing.

We believe that Education for Children and Adults is key to working towards assisting in generational change with attitudes towards Alcoholism and drug addiction.

At Silkworth we tailor Education Programmes for Secondary Schools individual to the school itself as well as taking into account the age range within the year group that we are working with. Each session covers Addiction as an illness, Consequences of misusing a substance, a personal share from a recovering alcoholic/addict. All groups are interactive with plenty of time for conversation and questions around the nature of addiction.

We also provide tailored programmes for employers around addiction in the workplace. These programmes cover Addiction within society today, stigmas, signs to look out for as well as specific information for managers. We also help employers with their Alcohol and drug policies in order that they are fit for purpose and in line with best practice.

Education is key to generational change around how we deal with and view drug and alcohol addiction. Please contact us for further information on our education programmes.

As professionals responsible for helping our clients and their families safely explore and overcome their guilt and shame, which is nurtured and reinforced by public stigma, we make it our responsibility to clearly break the stigma of addiction everywhere we see it. Not only do these efforts benefit the clients in our rehabilitation treatment programmes, clinically speaking, they can also end up as positive role models who help encourage more people in the pain and midst of active addiction to reach out for help. And on a larger, societal scale, we can ultimately and more accurately change public perceptions and public policy discussions/decisions about the realities of addiction as a disease, but more importantly as a clear message of the realities of achievable and sustainable recovery.

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