SUNDAY STIGMA POSTS

November 15, 2020:

Don’t let stigma create self-doubt and shame. Stigma doesn’t just come from others. You may mistakenly believe that your condition is a sign of personal weakness or that you should be able to control it without help.

Seeking help, educating yourself about your condition and connecting with others who have the disease of addiction or codependency issues can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.

Judgments almost always stem from a lack of understanding rather than information based on facts. Learning to accept your condition and recognize what you need to do to treat it, seeking support, and helping educate others can make a big difference

November 8, 2020:

Many folks are elated and many are angry at the results of the election. It would have happened with either outcome, because we are so divided.

In having had to deal with an outcome I never wanted or asked for in my life with the death of my son, I urge both sides toward acceptance. Don’t assume a conservative person is a deplorable or that a liberal person is a socialist. Neither of these are true.

Just like an addict is not always a loser, neither is a codependent always a righteous witch. Humans and humanity are much more complicated than these stereotypes. We often live in this alternate universe of stigmatizing what we don’t understand or don’t want to understand, based on our own life experiences and influences. We never want to step outside of the box we put ourselves in.

If you really want change, whatever that might be, you must act on it and be it. It’s in the example of how you live your life that people will be attracted to your point of view. It’s in how you show up for your own beliefs and values that people will see who you are and be inspired by it.

It’s in the actions you take, not in the words you say. It’s in how you live your everyday life that represents your values. Be the change you want to see in the world. I’ve always loved Gandhi’s take on it and it rings true today.

November 1, 2020:

The cancer survivor is proud, but those in recovery from addiction face stigma and discrimination, causing them to have feelings of guilt and shame. People in recovery are often faced with ongoing obstacles.

Important aspects of everyday living, which are so critical to a stable recovery from substance use disorder, such as employment, housing, and providing for one’s family, are much harder to find and sustain for an addict. Having struggled with the disease of addiction in the past should not make life more difficult.

Recovery from addiction should be treated with the same level of dignity as recovery from cancer, because they are both diseases, according to science. Addiction is a complex brain disorder that changes behavior.

October 25, 2020:

Addiction stigma prevents too many people from getting the help they need. Many of the negative, stigmatizing behavioral symptoms associated with addiction tend to diminish when appropriately addressed and managed in recovery.

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

This is one reason only one in 10 Americans with a substance use disorder receives professional care for addiction.

Sunday, October 18, 2020:

Stigma affects all of us and nearly everyone has felt stigmatized or has stigmatized others at some point in their lives.

In a recent study done by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the general public was more likely to have negative attitudes towards those dealing with drug addiction than those who were dealing with mental illness.  Becoming dependent on drugs can happen to anyone. It’s important to keep in mind that we can all do a better job of decreasing stigma around drug use.

The first step is to treat addicted individuals with dignity and compassion.

October 11, 2020:

Little progress has been made in removing the stigma around substance use disorders. People with addiction continue to be blamed for their disease.

Even though medicine long ago reached a consensus that addiction is a complex brain disorder with behavioral components, the public and even many in healthcare and the justice system continue to view it as a result of moral weakness and flawed character.

Alleviating stigma is not easy, in part because the rejection of people with addiction or mental illness arises from violations of social norms. Education is key to removing stigma.

October 4, 2020:

This post is about stigma, not politics. When Joe Biden spoke about his son’s addiction at last week’s debate, he spoke for every parent of an addict, including me. He challenged the stigma presented to him by stating how proud he was of his son and how much he loved him.

It was a remarkable moment for shattering the stigma of addiction.

Those who suffer from addiction are automatically judged as losers and parents who love them are judged as bad parents. Until addiction shows up in your family, it is easy to judge a situation you know nothing about.

The best antidote to stigma is education, which leads to compassion. I will never stop educating others about the disease that killed my son. Never.

September 20, 2020:

There is often no way for families of addicted loved ones to avoid being stigmatized, even if they are completely disengaged with the substance user. The negative label of addiction is still attached to them by neighbors, colleagues from work, other relatives, and previously close friends.

At the opposite end, families who enable the user can be disparaged as foolish for standing by them despite their behavior. This causes family members to isolate and keep the complicated situation a secret. The best way to combat stigma is to take the issues out in the open, not hide them away.

Families who don’t feel stigmatized will be more likely to seek support for their own needs and more able to take an active role in their loved one’s recovery. Families need their own recovery process, which celebrates the courage it takes to access education and support.

September 13, 2020:

Unless you’ve been there, you can’t imagine what it’s like to watch helplessly as someone you love descends into addiction.  The transformation defies logic until you understand your loved one is seriously ill with a brain disease that is devastating and chronic.

When it is left untreated, it is often fatal.  There is an essential reason we must understand addiction as an illness and not just bad behavior.  We punish bad behavior.  We treat illness.  Addicts aren’t weak or amoral, they’re ill.  Once and for all people must understand addiction is a treatable disease.

This isn’t an issue subject to “belief”.  It is based on scientific facts after years of research.  We don’t “believe” cancer is a disease.  We know it is.  Addiction is a disease, whether you “believe” it or not.

September 6, 2020:

Stigma affects every aspect of a person’s life, in ways that are impossible to measure.

Violation of human rights, like being treated with less consideration and respect when seeking medical care and housing. Lack of employment, like losing jobs and difficulty getting jobs, if substance use problems are known.

Negative feelings about themselves from internalizing the negative beliefs of others. Avoiding services in fear of disrespectful treatment. Continuing substance use to cope with other people’s negative attitudes and their own shameful feelings.

Stigma is not just about hurting someone’s feelings. Stigma is about prejudice, discrimination and violating a person’s human rights.

August 30, 2020:

Stigma happens when a person defines someone by their illness rather than who they are as an individual. For example, they might be labeled a “junkie” or a “drunk”, rather than a person who has substance use disorder.

Stigma is when someone sees a person in a negative way because of a particular characteristic, such as mental illness, skin color, disability, or addiction. When someone treats a person with addiction in a negative way, this is discrimination.

For individuals with addiction, the social stigma and discrimination they experience can make their problems worse, making it harder to recover. It may cause the person to avoid getting the help they need because of the fear of being stigmatized.

August 23, 2020:

There is pervasive stigma associated with addiction among the general public and institutions, which intensifies for those who are poor and addicted.  For the poor, access to appropriate healthcare services is scarce and hard to find.

For people with money or health insurance, there are a multitude of private drug and alcohol centers that can be afforded.

Public health services are often at capacity with long waiting lists for medical detoxification and treatment.  Hospital emergency rooms often turn away the addicted, with an attitude of “you did this to yourself”, further stigmatizing the disease.

Research suggests the poor have a significantly more difficult time breaking the cycle of addiction.  Removing these societal barriers to recovery  may prevent the cycle from continuing for generations.   Yet, there is no coordinated national effort at reducing the stigma, leaving a tragic gap for this population.

August 16, 2020:

Addiction is only a choice in the beginning.  Science tells us the initial choice to use drugs may turn into an illness if the risk factors are present in the individual.  As drug use increases, addiction is no longer a choice, because the brain’s healthy functioning has been disrupted.

Shame and punishment are simply not effective ways to end addiction.  A person can’t undo the damage drugs and alcohol have done to their brain through sheer willpower.

Like other chronic illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes, ongoing management of addiction is required for long-term recovery.  This includes treatment, behavioral therapy, medications, peer support and lifestyle modifications.

The science is indisputable.  Addiction is a disease of the brain, not a choice or character flaw.

August 9, 2020:

To some extent genetic inheritance drives differences in how each of us reacts to a substance, and how rewarding it is.  If family members have experienced addiction, the likelihood is other family members will too.

Heritability refers to how much genetic factors account for a person’s propensity to abuse substances.  Scientists measure heritability of addiction in a range between 40 to 70 percent, with variation depending on the substance.

But genetic inheritance does not seal a person’s fate.  Addiction awareness and education can reduce the risk as well as influence the trajectory of substance use problems.  It’s important for everyone in the family to learn the scientific facts about the disease.

August 2, 2020:

Saying addiction is a disease doesn’t mean one is helpless to it; the brain changes associated with addiction can be treated.

The image of an addict’s brain as a fried egg has been promoted in the past, and it’s not accurate. Why? Because a brain can recover and heal, but a fried egg can’t be unfried.

So, while it’s true a brain on drugs can be fried, it’s also true it can become unfried with treatment. It may take a long time depending on the extent of the substance use, but a brain can heal.

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