Something we do as a species is form collective opinions on things and then reinforce our opinions on one another through the media and public discourse. This is fine as long as the collective opinion is ethical, well-rounded, appropriate and applicable. But all too often we form negative, uneducated opinions collectively and go about reinforcing them. This is largely where stigmas and misunderstandings on substance abuse and addiction come from. Judgment and stereotyping are also deeply ingrained habits of humanity that cause harm and destruction. If we have any chance of eradicating addiction and substance abuse, we need to do away with these harmful stigmas and misunderstandings. Some of the most common ones are that addicts and substance abusers are bums.
A pervasive stigma of addiction and substance abuse is that a person must be a detriment to society if they struggle with them. This comes from the age old stereotype of an addict or substance abuser as the dirty man in the alley outside the liquor store. This is one of the most common and the most harmful stereotypes that relates to addiction and substance abuse. The truth is, addicts and substance abusers are in our communities, neighborhoods, support systems and even our families on every level of society. Addiction and substance abuse wears many faces, some of which are much closer to home than many people realize.
Another common stigma of addicts and substance abusers is that they are damaged goods. People assume that because one area of an addict’s or substance abuser’s life is dysfunctional, they must have nothing to offer society. Nothing could be farther from the truth. On the whole, addicts are higher functioning people than the average person. They often have incredible energy and intelligence, as well as a great deal of talent. When a person is addicted, all their good qualities get channeled into and consumed by their addiction, and they gain a reputation as an addict rather than as a gifted person. Addiction may temporarily rob a person of their talents and their purpose, but rest assured, all of those qualities are still present and will return to the person when they recover from their addiction.