How Shame Plays a Role in Opioid Addiction

Shame Plays Role in Opioid Addiction - Freedom From Addiction

There’s a stigma and judgment placed on those who struggle with substance use disorder. We hear terms like a druggie, crackhead, junkie, and more used to describe those struggling. These words reflect a moral judgment as well as a misunderstanding of the causes and pain that goes into developing a dependence on alcohol or drugs. These words shame those struggling, increasing an individual’s need to feel connected and accepted by others. For those who need connection and long to be accepted, shame can lead to feeling unworthy of belonging.

While many may not seem as though they are experiencing shame and guilt related to their substance use, the truth is most do, and they might just be hiding it well in an attempt not to have to feel painful feelings. Shame can make one feel uncomfortable and embarrassed which sometimes leads to disconnection and, hence, increased drug use. Substance abusers experiencing shame often feel unworthy and lose their self-respect.

Unfortunately, shame makes it less likely that someone will be successful in their recovery. Until one deals with the shame and learns how to manage it–along with other uncomfortable feelings–chances of relapse increase. This is a crucial point as many methods of treatment for substance abuse disorder include an approach that further shames individuals and confronts them on their past negative behavior and consequences of their use. We need more acceptance, compassion, and empathy in treatment for substance use disorder especially.

If you or someone you know is experiencing addiction, developing an adequate treatment plan is essential to achieve recovery. A free service like Freedom From Addiction can be of help to explore the different treatment options available. For 24/7 assistance, call 1.855.RECOVER or 1.855.732.6837.


Dr. Rachel Needle has specialized training in the area of substance use disorders. She is a professional consultant to substance abuse facilities and assists them in expanding and enhancing clinical programming. Dr. Needle also does expert training on the topic of substance abuse, mental illness, and sexual health for staff members at residential and outpatient facilities that specialize in alcohol and substance use disorders. 

| Facebook: Dr. Rachel Twitter: @DrRachelNeedle

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