The Addiction Stigma 

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Over the past decade, more and more research has demonstrated that addiction is a medical disorder. Demonstrable changes in the brain and the ability to control compulsive behaviors has been shown time and again when different drugs are abused regularly. In some cases, even occasional use of addictive drugs has been shown to cause significant brain changes. Yet, despite these findings, a recent survey showed that the general public still views addiction as a “moral failing” and not a serious disease that requires medical treatment, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Over 700 Americans took the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health poll. According to researchers, polltakers also said that they were unlikely to approve of legislative changes that would offer access to employment, housing, and insurance for patients in recovery from drug addiction. Rather than a medical disorder, polltakers often said that drug dependence was a personal vice.

Colleen Barry is an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management. In a Hopkins news release, she said: “While drug addiction and mental illness are both chronic, treatable health conditions, the American public is more likely to think of addiction as a moral failing than a medical condition. In recent years, it has become more socially acceptable to talk publicly about one’s struggles with mental illness. But with addiction, the feeling is that the addict is a bad or weak person, especially because much drug use is illegal.”

The survey also found that:

  • About 22 percent of polltakers would not want to work with someone on the job who was living with a drug addiction. Conversely, 62 percent said they wouldn’t mind working closely with someone who was living with a mental health disorder.
  • Approximately 64 percent believe it is okay to refuse employment to someone who has an addiction, but only 25 percent believe the same to be true about applicants who are living with a mental illness.
  • About 43 percent of polltakers say that addicts should not have equivalent health insurance benefits as everyone else, and only 21 percent felt that way about mental health patients.
  • Also, approximately 30 percent of polltakers said they believed it was impossible to recover from drug addiction or mental health disorders.

No matter what the consensus of the general public, research is clear that drug addiction is a medical disorder and one that is highly treatable. Detox is the first step to a life free from drug dependence, whether or not mental health issues are co-occurring. Contact us today for more information.