Stigma of Addiction

Stigma of Addiction

For decades, the behavioural health sector has battled myths and misconceptions regarding the nature of drug and alcohol addiction. Rather than being considered as suffering from a disease, people with substance use disorders were thought to be morally imperfect and lacking in willpower. Labels and phrases like “addict” and “alcoholic” — even “substance abuse” and “drug misuse” — are still used today to stigmatise the disease and those who suffer from it. This language and these perspectives impact society’s reactions to substance use disorder, which regard the disorder as a moral failing rather than a complicated behavioural health issue, resulting in a focus on punishment rather than disease prevention and treatment.

Today, thanks to science and advocacy, we have a far better understanding of substance use disorders and addictive behaviours, and health-care insurance parity has allowed more people to receive effective treatment.

Despite these advancements, there are still misconceptions about why people become hooked to drugs, as well as a lack of understanding of how drug use affects the brain. Learn more about addictive chemicals and addiction research by watching the video.

Long-term use of alcohol and other addictive substances alters brain circuitry and chemistry, according to scientific research. Simply put, long-term drug usage has an impact on brain function. The release of a strong neurotransmitter called dopamine is increased by drug use. If dopamine levels are consistently high as a result of substance abuse, the brain attempts to balance things out by creating less dopamine over time. At that stage, the brain relies on chemicals to cause dopamine release. And it is at this point that many turn to alcohol and other drugs to feel “normal”.