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Alcohol is the most abused substance in the United States. This fact casts such a wide net that it would be difficult to find anyone who doesn’t have a family member, friend or know of someone in their community suffering from this illness.
Despite the widespread reach of alcoholism, it also creates a stigma that acts as a barrier to treatment.
With numbers so high, it would seem to be socially acceptable to be in the company of so many others sharing the same problem, but the reality is quite the opposite.
The shame and negative perception by the public of people with drinking problems is something that requires more education and an attitude adjustment.
A stigma, according to Webster, is something that detracts from the character or reputation of a person; a mark of disgrace or reproach.
Because of the negative beliefs surrounding the disease of alcoholism, more than 60 percent of people who need treatment will not seek it.
Here are 4 Suggestions for Overcoming the Stigma Surrounding Alcoholism
1. Understand That Addiction is Not a Choice
More than thirty years of research, supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, has shown that addiction is a complex disease of the brain.
Furthermore, countless studies have proven that genetics play a part in this illness. This disease, regardless of what substance is being abused, has been laying in wait for its victims.
2. Remove Disgrace From the Equation
Many alcoholics feel shame and guilt for their alleged weaknesses, which cause some to continue hiding their problems and sink deeper into dependence. Since addiction is a disease, there should be no disgrace associated with it.
Nobody shames a person who’s suffering from cancer. Likewise, with the disease of alcoholism, the most important thing is to seek medical treatment.
3. Get the Best Medical Treatment Possible
Treatment for alcoholism begins with a physician that is trained and certified in addiction medicine. Some rehab centers claim to offer treatment when, in fact, what they offer is merely self-help.
It is necessary to receive an extensive physical and psychological evaluation so that an addiction specialist can diagnose the stage and severity of the disease. This will allow doctors to create a comprehensive plan for recovery, and safely ease a patient through detox, if needed.
4. Be Patient and Have Hope
Recovering alcoholics can and do lead healthy and productive lives. Since alcoholism is a disease, the occasional recurrence of symptoms is entirely normal.
The goal of alcoholism treatment and therapy is to medically address any underlying psychological issues that might exist, to develop new habits and coping mechanism so that the recurrence of symptoms is limited.
The damage caused by alcoholism spreads out exponentially, affecting families, friends and society at large.
Advances in medical treatment and the slow societal shift in understanding addiction as a disease are helping to erase the stigma alcoholism.
But we still have a long way to go before the majority of the public understands the true nature of addiction and the grip it holds on people afflicted by it.
Understanding that it’s not a choice is an important first step to getting help for more people. We can all play a part.