I thought stigma was bad with depression until Charles developed a drug habit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s bad with both. Due to a lack of understanding and education, both depression and addiction are seen as “weaknesses.”
With addiction, things take on a new level of shame.
Until it happens to someone’s family they don’t see the disease because the nature of addiction is such a different illness. Hallmarks of addiction include behavior that is often considered “immoral” behavior therefore people think the sufferer should be able to control it. In short, it’s seen as a moral failing.
Addicts steal to support their habit. They lie and manipulate and are seen as selfish–focused on feeding their habit. All of these are hallmarks of the disease of addiction. The destructive and self-destructive behavior of addiction is maddening and frustrating. Parents who are addicted will give up everything and even abandon their children because of the habit.
Judgment is harsher with addiction. If I post a picture of someone that dies from addiction, I will always get private messages, “Should you say that?” My response? Would you ask me that if he/she died of heart disease? It’s a cause of death. Period.
That makes this opiate epidemic that much harder to fight. Few have compassion. People simply don’t see it unless it happens to their loved ones, allowing this epidemic dig deep into our culture, making it that much harder to resolve. Community support and education are still woefully lacking. And many families have an addict living in their home and don’t even know it because they don’t know the signs. They think everything is fine until they are slapped in the face with it.
But no one is immune. And if you think you are, you are living a fantasy.
The stigma with either of them blocks access to care and resources. It’s changing. Slowly. But it’s likely we will have another 3 years of this overdose opiate epidemic. With addicted babies being born and kids being abandoned by addicted parents, it will take decades to unwind from all its imposed trauma and side effects to this generation.
It’s time we got a new attitude, looked past our pride, and invested in solutions. Because this is the culture everyone is living in now and you can’t isolate yourself from it.