By Richard Miller
“Either you are calling me crazy or the bravest woman you know,” said talk-show host Wendy Williams after admitting on her show on March 19 that she is seeking treatment for addiction. According to The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Williams is one of the 19.7 million American adults who battle a substance use disorder. However, only four million people receive treatment, which is only 19 percent of those who need it.
Williams’ statement perfectly sums up why less than one-fifth of those struggling with addiction actually seek treatment. Our society stigmatizes addiction because of the impaired judgment or erratic behavior associated with abusing drugs and alcohol. These actions can have legal and occupational consequences, as well as relationship problems. Understandably, these kinds of consequences cause embarrassment and shame among those involved.
More celebrities are opening up about their personal struggles in an effort to de-stigmatize addiction. One of the most memorable instances was this past summer when Demi Lovato suffered a severe opioid overdose after almost six years of reported sobriety. The public’s response to her overdose ranged from supportive to extremely hurtful and disturbing. This divisiveness is what makes many who are struggling with addiction hesitant to reach out for help.
Drug and alcohol addiction are too often seen as a moral issue or a criminal matter rather than a health problem. Despite advances in understanding addiction as a disease, substance use disorder remains largely marginalized by the mainstream medical field, which stems from a lack of robust education on the topic in medical school.
As evidenced by New Jersey’s opioid crisis, our country is paying the price for years of neglecting the fiscal and educational investments required to confront dangerous addiction.
I have lost loved ones and relatives to addiction who were very young, some even in their early twenties. I believe that if the stigma surrounding addiction was not so prominent in our society, then they would not have been afraid to seek the help they needed.
The world can be cruel for those battling addiction. Addicts are the ones who need love, acceptance and support the most, yet society turns its back on them. When someone dealing with addiction is faced with societal rejection, they may feel that the only way they can ever again find their bliss is by succumbing to their addiction. Between healthcare professionals, loved ones, and the rest of society, people who need help have been let down time and time again. If you know someone facing addiction, the best thing you can do is dispel all judgment and offer empathetic support.
Students share opinions around campus
“Does the stigma around addiction need to change?