How Stereotypes Prevent Us From Dealing With Addiction
As addicts start down the road to recovery, they often fail to receive the one thing they could use the most: an unbiased, non-judgmental hand of support.
As a society, it’s become commonplace for people to forget that addiction is a disease. Rather, it has become riddled with stereotypes.
Some assume that addicts look, act, and engage with others in a certain way. Others claim they’re too lazy, too stubborn, or too immoral to change.
As such, people who might be of great help instead approach those dealing with addiction as mere players in a generalized game of debauchery — one they have no interest in playing.
Today, we’re discussing how stereotypes hold us back from truly dealing with addiction head-on, and how we can fight to change them.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!
1. They Ostracize Those Dealing with Addiction
Studies show that long-term ostracism is linked to drug and substance abuse. One of the reasons? Our mind processes social rejection much like a physical injury.
If we’re rejected or hurt once or twice, we can bounce back fairly quickly. Yet, if we’re constantly subjected to it, we eventually lose the will to try. The hurt is too much to bear.
The same can be true of addicts.
Research shows that one of the top five reasons addicts fail to get help is the concern that entering treatment will cause the community to have a negative opinion of them. There is a fear it will expose their perceived “shortcomings” and introduce new judgments and prejudices.
It’s important to remember that self-esteem and confidence are valuable parts of the puzzle. A positive, inclusive attitude can go a long way in building up the addict rather than tearing him or her down. As a result, the fear of social rejection is slowly diminished.
2. They Make Us Blind to Reality
It’s easy to think that all addicts look or act the same. They’re the ones holding the signs on the side of the road, or asking for change in the parking lot. They can’t be our sibling, or husband, our co-worker, or our friend.
Engaging in this mindset can make us blind to someone who may be struggling with addiction right under our nose.
It’s important to consider the entirety of addiction and to realize that it isn’t one-size-fits-all. It manifests itself in different appearances, income levels, and skill sets. The Ph.D. in the office next to you is no more immune to it than the college dropout who lives down the road.
Breaking down stereotypes is the first step toward getting those dealing with addiction the help and support they need.
3. They Block Critical Communication
Imagine a stereotypical addict. Now ask yourself if you’d be willing to go talk to that person, or to gather a team to help him or her start the path to recovery.
The more we label those dealing with addiction as “others” the less likely we are to approach them in gentle and supportive conversation. Yet, these talks are necessary to jumpstart the recovery process.
On the other hand, stereotypes can also keep us from having conversations that could prevent addiction.
For example, research shows that teens who engage in conversations around substance abuse with one or more parent are less likely to abuse alcohol, cigarettes, or illicit drugs. Yet, if your child doesn’t look like a “typical” addict, or exhibit any of the “normal” addict traits, you may be less likely to consider such conversations.
Ultimately, communication is key. Don’t be fooled by stereotypes that tell you who does and doesn’t need help.
Breaking the Barriers: Starting Recovery
Changing the way we think about addicts is the first step toward helping them find the help they need. One of the next steps is to find a recovery program that can provide hands-on support.
If you’re dealing with addiction, or know someone who is, we’d love to be that resource. We’re an extended care treatment facility designed to help addicts get back on their feet.
If you’d like to learn more, feel free to contact us. Let’s connect and start the journey together.
Reviewed and Assessed by
Taylor Brown, B.A.Com., MAADC II
Tim Coleman, M. of Ed.