END THE STIGMA OF ADDICTION
The Stigma of Opioid Addiction
People who struggle with addictions to prescription painkillers and heroin (known as opioids) face a wide range of stigmas. A stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person or a group apart. When people are labeled primarily because of their addiction, they are being negatively stereotyped. Biased, hurtful words, attitudes and behavior represent prejudices against people with substance use disorder, and often lead to their discrimination and social exclusion. Stigmas can also create physical and mental barriers for people with addiction to seeking treatment.
Examples of Stigma
Recent interviews with people in recovery from opioid addiction report the following examples of stigma:
• Hurtful words and labels, including junkie, loser, thief, druggie, abuser and addict
• Comments, such as “Once a junkie, always a junkie” or “You’re not fit to be a parent.
• Perceptions, including: - Addiction is a personal choice (when in fact it’s a disease). - Addiction is a sign of human weakness, or a lack of morals or willpower. - Addiction is the result of poor parenting.
• People in recovery with children have experienced other parents unwilling to let their children play at their schoolmate’s homes.
• Some communities view addiction as a crime, an act that must be penalized, versus a disease that needs treatment.
• People known to local law enforcement have reported being “profiled.”
UNDERSTANDING ADDICTION and PREVENTION
Addiction is a Disease
Many science and medical practitioners have concluded that addiction is a chronic, often relapsing disease of the brain. Addiction in some cases may have genetic roots. Although the initial decision to take drugs may be voluntary, chemical and neurological changes to the brain severely restrict a person’s self-control. The disease hinders one’s ability to resist intense impulses to take drugs – despite harmful consequences to the addicted individual and to those around him or her.
Prevention – Tips For High School-Aged Adolescents
Send Clear Messages
• Set clear rules about not using alcohol other drugs or misusing prescriptions and be explicit about the dangers of their use.
• As young people go through their teenage years, they often challenge authority. That is why it is important to be consistent in providing consequences for breaking the rules. For example, some parents choose to identify specific privileges that could be taken away if a rule is broken.
• Explain why these rules are important and that they exist because you care about them.
• Make it clear that alcohol or other drug use can get in the way of your child’s goals and dreams. • Support the steps they take toward earning and keeping your trust
• Reward them when they make good choices.
• When your adolescent goes out, make sure you know the “who, what, where, and when.”
• In high school, adolescents need to gain their sense of independence by making some of their own decisions. You can help them by offering ideas for healthy activities.
Watch the Wheels
• Parental monitoring is especially important when your child begins driving.
• Alcohol and many drugs impair judgment, which is critical when safely operating a motor vehicle.
• Individuals who drive under the influence put themselves and their friends at risk of serious injury or death.
• Creating a “driving contract” reduces the likelihood that your child will drive under the influence or ride with someone who has been using. The contract should outline your expectations that your child will not use alcohol or other drugs and will not ride with someone who has been using alcohol or other drugs. And if they violate the contract, they’ll lose their driving and other privileges for a set period of time.
Questions about Your Own Use
• Your children look up to you and may copy your behavior. That is why it is important that you are thoughtful about what they hear you say or see you do.
• When your child asks questions about your own alcohol, or other drug use, sharing details may be harmful. Research suggests that when you describe your past drug use to your child, you may be undercutting your message that they should not use drugs.
• Keep the focus on your children and your concern for them.
• If you are concerned about your child’s use of alcohol, other drugs, or misuse of prescriptions, we can help.
For free and confidential information and referral services for youth and young adults (up to age 24) who are experiencing a problem with one of these substances, contact BSAS’ Youth Central Intake & Care Coordination service or call Toll Free: 866-705-2807 / 617-661-3991 TTY: 617-661-9051
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