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How Harmful is the Social Stigma of Substance Abuse?

the social stigma of substance abuseThere is still a social stigma associated with substance abuse even today, but just how harmful is this stigma and can it finally be eliminated once and for all? Many people view alcohol and drug abuse as a personal failing instead of an addiction, and this can be very harmful because it places all of the blame on the individual. Another model is the medical model, which views substance abuse as a medical condition like heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes. The problem with this model is that it takes all personal responsibility away from the user and can offer the viewpoint of “It’s not my fault, I can’t help myself, I have a disease”. Neither extreme model is effective but the medical model does try to remove some of the social stigma associated with drug and alcohol abuse.

Instead of entirely blaming the individual for the substance abuse, which only increases the social stigma attached to this problem, or blaming everything on a disease a balance needs to be struck. The individual must take some responsibility for their actions while society needs to adapt and accept the fact that substance abuse does have a genetic component and tends to run in families. When this is achieved we will be able to offer effective treatment for substance abuse and those who have a problem and need treatment will be more willing to admit that they have a problem and need help. Right now many people do not admit they have a substance abuse issue for fear that the social stigma could ruin their career or even their life. This need to change.