stigma of addiction and recovery

If you or someone you know is facing addiction, it’s important you understand the stigma related to it. The stigma surrounding addiction causes a lot of problems of which you might not be aware, and you could face many challenges and roadblocks along the way if you are not careful. The stigma of addiction makes it hard to seek treatment, maintain employment, and more. When you struggle with addiction, it’s hard to maintain your relationships and move forward with your life.

Difficult to Seek Treatment

If you face addiction, the stigma that surrounds it can make it hard to seek treatment. Many people with addiction don’t want to face shame and social stigma, so they don’t seek treatment in the early stages of addiction. Even if they want to get help for their problem, they are worried that people will judge them for being addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Not seeking treatment only makes the problem worse. People who face this challenge might avoid treatment until it’s too late or until they face major problems in life, making the situation much more complicated. Overcoming stigma and putting yourself out there is not always easy. But it’s the best way to move forward until we break the stigma of addiction.

The Challenges of Maintaining Employment

The stigma of addiction can make it hard to find or maintain employment. If you face addiction and a prospective employer learns about it, you might have trouble while on the job. Your employer can fire you for using illegal drugs. If you get drug charges on your record, getting a job becomes even more challenging. The stigma of drug addiction stays with you even after you recover if you get arrested for it. Once you have trouble getting a job, you face a range of other issues that you could have otherwise avoided.

The Difficulty of Maintaining Relationships

Maintaining relationships can be difficult due to the stigma of drug addiction. Not many people want to get into a relationship with someone who has a history of drug or substance abuse. When it comes to your current relationships, they could fall apart if people believe the stigma related to addiction. Some individuals view recovering addicts as not being responsible and as someone they can’t depend on. Or they might think substance abuse and violence are always related. Many people face breakups or divorces following drug addiction. Family relationships also suffer as a result of the stigma of drug addiction. Even when individuals seek treatment right away, their relationships might not survive their substance use.

The Struggle of Moving Past Addiction

One of the biggest problems with addiction stigma is that it makes it even harder to break free from addiction. When you are addicted to drugs or alcohol, people look at you in a different way. The lack of money and loss of relationships related to addiction creates even more roadblocks.

In many cases, those without the right insurance find it all but impossible to get into a quality treatment center. Also, a lack of employment can force people into a life of crime, a trap into which you don’t want to fall. If you want to move past addiction, getting proper treatment is a vital part of the process.

Doing so is all but impossible when you have no job or support system. Those who want help don’t always have the resources they need to move past addiction. Ending the stigma makes a huge difference in the outcome you expect.

What Causes Addiction Stigma?

Stigma of AddictionIf you want to do your part to end the stigma related to addiction, understanding how it works and what causes it is a powerful move in the right direction. Some people define stigma as the disapproval of a person based on personality traits or behaviors. People who are stigmatized have trouble integrating with social circles and find themselves out of the loop. Those who face addiction have trouble making friends and working well with others in the workplace, and they could have trouble with law enforcement.

If you want to know how addiction stigma works, consider how you viewed drug addiction before becoming addicted. Or you can think of any stigmatized group and try learning about them. In some cases, you find the stigma was unjustified. In simple terms, people judge you based on how other addicts have acted in the past. If someone sees several drug addicts who don’t care about anything or anyone, it’s easy to assume everyone addicted to drugs is that way.

Lack of Awareness

A lack of awareness is at the heart of all stigmas. People don’t fully understand what being addicted to drugs means or how it impacts people. Depending on the type of addiction a person has, others likely view them as irresponsible, unreliable, and dishonest. Being viewed as dishonest is a problem for those who want to move forward and improve their lives in one way or another.

If they seek help, they are much less likely to get it when people don’t believe them. There is another reason a lack of awareness creates stigma; most people fear what they don’t understand. It’s like the fear of the dark. If you don’t know what is going on, you assume the worst.

Lack of Education

A lack of education is another problem that creates stigma. Education is vital when it comes to issues that impact society in a major way. If an issue is too stigmatized, nobody wants to talk about it, and the situation becomes that much worse. People have to know about and relate to a situation to fully understand it. Not knowing the details gives people room to fill in the gap with their imagination, and most people assume the worst. If people can’t relate to what you are going through, overcoming addiction becomes that much more complicated.

Herd Mentality

Herd mentality is a major reason people face stigma. The phrase “herd mentality” refers to how most people do what everyone else is doing. If you grow up in a culture where certain behaviors are considered normal, you are likely to have those behaviors. If you grow up in an area where those same behaviors are frowned on, you will probably not have them. You will likely feel the same way as those around you.

If most people look down on those who are addicted to drugs, others are likely to do the same. This makes the problem even worse and lets it spiral out of control, and you don’t want to find yourself in that situation if you can help it.

The Importance of Overcoming Stigma

Overcoming addiction stigma is vital for everyone. It impacts more than just those facing it. If drug and substance abuse get out of hand, it impacts the entire community. Those facing addiction often lose their jobs and have other problems in their lives, and that affects everyone. Those who are not addicted are much more productive and contribute to society.

Those who suffer from addiction often need government assistance, and they also burden the healthcare system. In other words, drug addiction is not just an individual problem; it’s a community issue. Solving addiction stigma benefits everyone.


Education is the key to reducing stigma. Getting others to understand what you are going through is vital when you want to make stigma a thing of the past. Many people view addiction as something that happens to people who don’t care about anyone. They also view it as something addicts do to themselves.

Some individuals began using drugs without knowing how bad it would impact their lives. By the time they see what it does to them, it’s too late. Drugs change the way a person’s brain works by altering the signals of the brain cells. The brain changes so much that individuals begin to depend on the drug in order to feel normal. Then, the body becomes unable to function in a way that feels right without the use of drugs or alcohol. Many people want to break free from addiction but don’t know how. They need support and guidance from trained experts who specialize in addiction treatment.

Fighting the Stigma of Addiction with North Jersey Recovery Center

North Jersey Recovery is here to meet your treatment needs in any way we can. North Jersey Recovery cares about you and will stand by your side each step of the way. When you come into our treatment center, we learn about your needs so that we can get you into the right program for your situation. We offer many services about which you might want to be aware:

  • Inpatient Care
  • Outpatient Care
  • Sober Living
  • Detox Programs

We understand how hard breaking free from addiction can seem. When you come to us, we take every possible step to protect you and get you on the right track. Our caring team is excited to welcome you and make you feel right at home. We put in our best effort to match you with a treatment program that best fits your needs and situation. Our main goal is to get your life back on track in no time. If you are ready to begin your journey to recovery, contact us today.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Medical Reviewer

Laura comes to NJRC with 23 years of vast clinical experience in hospital, residential, outpatient, and community outreach settings where she has worked, supervised clinical teams, and volunteered. She has provided substance abuse and mental health counseling, clinical coordination, and advocacy to individuals, families and groups, and specializes in co-occurring disorders for both adults and adolescents.