Substance use disorders are among the most stigmatized conditions in the entire world.
Drug and alcohol abuse are among a list of 18 of the most highly stigmatized social problems or conditions. They rank number one and number four as the most highly stigmatized.
The public often may believe that people who are using substances in harmful ways are more risky. And, more damaging, there is a “belief that individuals with substance use disorder have at least some degree of personal responsibility for the condition… This can leave the general public feeling frightened and angry.”
Some people think that the answer is to see substance use disorder medical condition but this may end up backfiring. A medical approach “may invalidate or de-legitimize the harm substance use can do to someone’s friends, family, and society at large and thus ultimately this very important message about substance use disorder may fall flat, argues addiction expert Keith Humphreys. Comparisons of substance use disorder to diabetes and asthma may miss the mark, and how we can address the problem of stigma while still realistically acknowledging the potential harm substance use disorders can cause.