The problem with addiction stigma is that it leads to both anticipated and actual discrimination against the person with the substance use disorder. The addict may become less likely to seek help.
Even people in treatment face stigma from the community. For example, people often look down on those receiving Suboxone in spite of the fact that these people are treating the disease of addiction in a responsible and medically approved way.
Addiction stigma can also be seen in community institutions, public policy, and even from healthcare professionals. Treatment providers can hold negative, stigmatized beliefs including that addicts overuse the system, addicts are not invested in their own health, and addicts abuse providers through drug-seeking and failing to follow recommended care.
Some in our society feel that this shaming of addicts will deter people from abusing substances and increase their motivation to seek help. However, no empirical evidence exists to support this theory and, in fact, it appears that the opposite often happens.
According to a study by Barry et al, substance use disorder stigma in the community results in people being:
Unwilling to allow a person with an addiction to marry into their family or work closely with them on a job.
More willing to accept discriminatory practices against those with substance use disorders.
More skeptical about the effectiveness of available treatments (when compared to treatments for other mental illnesses).
More likely to oppose public policies aimed at helping people with addictions.
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