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Addiction Stigma

The Perfect Game Against Substance Abuse Stigma


Who just pitched a perfect game against substance abuse stigma?

The stigma surrounding substance abuse and addiction is so strong in our society that we rarely think of a successful person as someone who could struggle, even though they are just as likely. The negative stigma continues to perpetuate false stereotypes, and in return, reinforces behavior of stress, fear, denial and secrecy. All of which exacerbate the problem and stand in the way of people getting help.Who just pitched a perfect game against substance abuse stigma?

Let’s take a quick look at some baseball facts:

In 2001, CC Sabathia was the youngest player in the major leagues (after being awarded Minor League Player of the Year in 2000). He’s played for some of the top MLB teams. In 2008, he signed what was at the time the largerst contract for a pitcher in MLB history for the New York Yankees. He’s been an invaluable player since. In 2009, he was the Opening Day starter and that year won his first championship ring with the Yankees. He also won the American League Championship Series Most Valuable Player Award. By the end of 2014 season, he was one of the more sucessful pitchers from a hitting standpoint. And his ability to pitch a high number of effective innings each season has some broadcasters calling him the “workhorse.” He is the very definition of success in this country: determined and hard-working. Read more

The Rapid Rise of Middle-Aged Women and Prescription Drug Overdoses

Middle-Aged Women and Prescription Drug Overdoses: A Spike in an Unlikely Demographic

We are seeing the largest spike in prescription drug overdoses, usually painkillers, in middle-aged women. This month Trust for America’s Health released a report that showed deaths involving prescription drug overdoses has quadrupled in the past decade. More people are dying from prescription drug overdoses than heroin and cocaine combined. And in 29 states,  more people are dying from prescription drug overdoses than from automobile accidents. This incredible spike primarily involves prescription drug painkillers like OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin, Darvocet, Lortab, Lorcet, Methadone, Opana, and oxymorphone. And the problem is only getting worse.

But what is even more surprising is the demographic that we are seeing the largest spike in prescription drug overdoses: middle-aged women (aged 45-54), particularly painkillers. When one thinks of the typical demographic of dying drug abusers, it’s not middle-aged women: mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. And yet these numbers are rapidly rising. Read more

Christina Huffington and the Indiscriminate Nature of Addiction

Christina Huffington talks about her struggles with addiction and how addiction can happen to anyoneMany people wonder, who becomes an addict? The truth is, addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t matter someone’s age, race, gender, financial background or social status. As was the case for Christina Huffington, the 24-year-old daughter of the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post and prominent spokesperson, Arianna Huffington. Christina Huffington has recently spoken out about her struggles with addiction (primarily cocaine), an eating disorder, and anxiety (It is not uncommon for someone to suffer with more than one addiction, secondary addictions such as an eating disorder, or other disorders). Read more

How to Fight the Addiction Stigma

Don't reinforce the negative addiction stigma: get help, share your story, show that addiction affects all kinds of people. One of the top reasons why an individual won’t seek help is the addiction stigma. People are reluctant to enter treatment in fear of what their family, friends or coworkers might perceive about them. Stigma also impedes those already in recovery and distances those who advocate for addiction groups. So what are some ways in which we can fight the addiction stigma?

First let’s address what the addiction stigma is. There is a misperception that an addict or someone suffering from substance abuse is automatically a character-flawed, weak-willed person, who is immoral, bad, or a failure. Often times it’s this perceived negative stigma that affects an individual and deters them from seeking help. Because in reality, addiction is a brain disease that needs physical and psychological treatment. Addiction also shows no discrimination. It is seen across all spectrums of race, ethnicity, gender, and socio-economics. In fact, some groups that researches are seeing an increase in substance abuse may surprise you. Read more

Addiction Stigma: Brain Disease or Moral Failing?

Addiction hijacks the reward center of the brain, it is not a character flaw in those who suffer. We’ve discussed before on this blog how the negative addiction stigma can be a major obstacle for those seeking help for substance abuse. Despite the fact that the American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as a “primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuity,” our society still tends to stigmatize addiction as a character flaw or moral failing.

A current example, written about by Deni Carise, is Lindsay Lohan’s recent appearance on The Letterman Show. Despite David Letterman having admitted on his show a while back that he was  an alcoholic, he perpetuated the addiction stigma by mocking and making jokes to Lohan’s face regarding her struggles with substance abuse. Carise writes, “Rest assured if you are famous, the media will crucify you if you relapse.” She adds, “Given our current preoccupation with disastrous lifestyles and recovery failures, the mistaken belief that those addicted to drugs or alcohol never get better or are in some way weak or forever damaged, and the ongoing stigma surrounding addiction — perpetuated by the very people who should know better — is it any wonder why so many are silent about their recovery?” And while the government agrees that addiction is a disease, the efforts of the “War on Drugs” still classifies most drug users as criminals. Read more

Does Alcoholism Stigma Deter Seeking Help?

Albeit the availability of numerous programs that effectively treat alcohol dependencies, less than 25 percent of people who need help with alcoholism actually seek treatment. Individuals who often perceive a greater negative stigma surrounding substance abuse and dependencies avoid seeking treatment in fear of it confirming their inclusion into a stigmatized group. A study conducted by Columbia University found that of the people diagnosed with alcoholism, more than 60% said they would avoid seeking help if they believed they would be stigmatized if people knew. (ScienceDaily)

The study surveyed 34,653 members of the general population (6,309 had been been diagnosed with an alcohol-related disorder). The findings included that individuals diagnosed with an alcohol-related dependency- who perceived a negative stigma surrounding substance abuse – were 0.37 times less likely to seek treatment than those with similar alcohol-related dependencies who did not perceive a negative stigma surrounding substance abuse.  (Medical News Today)

Mike Sanders, founder of ExecuCare ARC, said that as a business professional he was affected by the perceived negative stigma prior to entering recovery for alcohol and prescription drug dependencies. As the owner of a company, he was attracted to the 10-day Neurotransmitter Restoration (NTR) because it was conducive to his circumstances. It was discreet, minimal withdrawal symptoms, eliminated cravings, restored clarity of mind, but most importantly, it broke the cycle of dependency and allowed him an entry point into the recovery process. “I can relate to negative stigma increasing the barrier of that entrance point,” he said.  Sanders opened ExecuCare in hopes of offering individuals the same opportunity NTR brought him.

In the study, other findings in the general population were: younger individuals perceived a less negative stigma surrounding substance abuse, but were less likely to seek treatment. Men perceived a more negative stigma than women but not by much (38.1% to 37.7%). The study also found that a perceived negative stigma towards alcohol dependency and necessary treatment was higher for those with lower personal income, lower education, and those previously married vs. those who had never been married. The study also showed that individuals with more chronic alcohol dependencies were more likely to seek treatment. (Medical News Today)

This is one of the few studies that focuses on the negative stigma surrounding alcohol dependencies and its relationship to underutilized treatment services. The researchers, who published the study’s findings in the November 2010 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, hope that it will encourage more effort in reducing the stigma surrounding alcohol-related dependencies, substance abuse, and necessary treatments.

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