August 31st is Overdose Awareness Day. On this day, we call for a reduction of stigma around substance abuse, as well as remember those who have passed from an overdose.
Fear of negative public response is a major deterrent of individuals from seeking treatment for substance abuse. In turn, this also becomes a major factor in increases in drug-related health problems, self-esteem and mental health, and, by extension, overdose. By reducing stigma, we open the floor for a conversation that can help us help those struggling with substance abuse disorder.
Debunking the Myths of Substance Abuse
One thing is clear: Our society holds biases against those who struggle with substance abuse disorders – and most people don’t even realize it.
A few of the more common misconceptions surrounding addiction can be easily disproven with information about the nature of addiction. Some of these include:
- Addiction is a choice
Addiction is certainly not a choice. Genetics, upbringing, trauma, and other influences can contribute to addiction.
- Addiction is a sign of a moral failure or a bad person.
Addiction can arise out of a variety of different environments and situations – none of which have anything to do with a person’s character. Addiction impacts brain function enough that it can lead people to make bad choices, but it’s important to understand they do it because they are deeply sick and need help
- Addiction is just a sign of a lack of willpower
It is impossible – and potentially dangerous — to just “will” yourself to quit using substances cold turkey when the body has become addicted because the continuous presence of substance can rewire your brain. Often, medical intervention is needed, such as medical detox.
- A person who relapses will not be able to recover
Remember: addiction is a physically manifested, chronic illness. Like any chronic illness, getting well can require long-term, even lifelong work and management.
An Easy Way to Fight Substance Abuse Stigma
We can begin to create a more accepting environment by educating ourselves on the science of substance abuse, and by changing our language to highlight the humanity of those with substance abuse disorders.
Terms like, “addict, user, drug abuser, junkie” place a one-faceted label on someone who is struggling. Using terms like “person with substance use disorder”, “patient” emphasizes the humanity, rather than the condition, of the person being described. In this same way, even terms like “alcoholic” and “drunk” can be replaced with “person with alcohol use disorder”, “person who misuses alcohol”.
As well, referring to negative drug tests as “clean” implies that those who do not receive negative results are “dirty”. By simply saying “negative” or “positive” results, we can create neutrality surrounding the presence of drugs in the system.
Talking Saves Lives
Reducing stigma and opening conversations surrounding drug use and overdose can mean the difference between life and death for many. As we remember those who lost their battles with substance use disorder, we hope to continue to save lives by working to make conversations about substance abuse easier.
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse disorder, please contact Livengrin 215-638-520 or BensalemAdmissions@livengrin.org today.