Stigma: Substance Abuse & Mental Health

Stigma: Substance Abuse & Mental Health

Americans are the most informed and educated people on earth.  Yet, many of them still don’t understand substance abuse and mental health.  At Design for Change Recovery, we realize that no one becomes addicted by choice.  So, we recognize them as individuals who need compassion, respect, and professional treatment. 

The stigma surrounding substance abuse & mental health often keeps people from getting the treatment they need.  More than 90% of individuals with substance use disorders don’t get treatment because of stigma.  Why does this happen? And, what can we do to reduce the stigma?

What is Stigma and How Does It Cause Harm?

The stigma of substance abuse and mental health places blame on the person.  It leads them to doubt their self-worth and feel that they don’t deserve any better.  As a result, they feel guilt, shame, and fear about their addiction.  These perceptions keep them from seeking treatment.  

The most damaging stigma contends that an addicted person lacks character or is morally weak.  People with this mentality insist that a person could quit the substance if they really wanted to.

Stigma contributes to the vicious cycle of addiction because the stigmatized person often feels rejected by society.  So, continuing to use addictive substances is a way to escape their painful emotions.

How Can We Reduce Stigma?

Humans are pretty steadfast when it comes to holding on to their beliefs.  Changing a person’s mindset or opinions is not easy.  Social norms can be powerful opponents.  

With the prevalence of drug and alcohol use in our nation, everyone knows someone who uses these substances.  So, It is crucial for people from all walks of life to educate themselves about the relationship between substance abuse and mental health. 

We can help reduce stigma by learning the facts about what causes addiction.  No one decides to become dependent on drugs or alcohol.  So, breaking the stigma of addiction begins by being an advocate for change.  Get engaged in community events that promote education and awareness about the dangers of drug use.  

When we stop judging these individuals and promote treatment rather than punishment, stigma is reduced a little at a time.

What Causes Substance Abuse?

Contrary to what stigma dictates, there are many factors that contribute to substance use.  Some of those contributing factors can include the following:

Mental Health Disorders

Mental health disorders vary depending on a person’s environment and experiences.  Some of the most common mental health disorders are depression, anxiety disorder, OCD, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and schizophrenia.

Individuals with those disorders often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to cope with the symptoms.

Family History of Substance Use

Many people have family members or other relatives who use drugs or alcohol.  So, they see it as a normal aspect of daily life.  This is the case for young children especially.  They often begin using addictive substances at an early age as a result.  

Genetic Predisposition to Addiction

Studies show that specific genes are a determining factor in a person’s susceptibility to addiction.  This doesn’t mean they will or won’t become addicted.  It only means that they have a mutation in some of the genes that make them more likely to become addicted.

Trauma and Stress

Trauma and stress are two of the leading causes of substance abuse. People who struggle with these issues often turn to drugs or alcohol to escape their emotions.  Trauma is usually caused by a sudden, unexpected death of a loved one.  Or, it can come from witnessing or being the victim of an accident or crime.  

Trauma can also be the result of mental or physical abuse, military deployment, combat, or financial issues.  It can also be the result of childhood neglect or sexual abuse.  

Stress is usually the result of daily demands at home or on the job.  Some people try to do more in a day than time allows.  If they finish the tasks, they worry about it and feel like they failed.  

Low-Self Esteem and Lack of Confidence

Someone who has low self-esteem or lacks confidence may use drugs or alcohol.  They believe it helps them fit in with the crowd and have more fun.  Casual use soon becomes chronic use, and addiction begins.

Of course, there are many more factors that contribute to substance abuse.  However, the few that are listed above are the most common.

Overcoming Addiction is Possible at Design for Change Recovery

Helping someone overcome addiction is a complex process for several reasons.  One reason has to do with the underlying causes of substance abuse.  For instance, each person also struggles with emotional or mental health disorders.  These problems cause or exacerbate their drug or alcohol use.  

Effective treatment must address the physical addiction as well as the emotional or mental factors.  At Design for Change Recovery, our comprehensive program provides options that specifically target all aspects of substance abuse and mental health disorders.

Contact us at our Lancaster, CA facility today to learn more about how we can help you or a loved one defeat substance abuse.

Source:

  • drugabuse.gov – Genetics and Epigenetics of Addiction DrugFacts
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