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Stigma and Drug Addiction: Analytical Essay

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Illicit drug use is disapproved in most societies. It is highly stigmatized and for this reason, those people who have been lost in the world of drugs find this behavior harmful. While there is a wide research on drugs and alcohol abuse, few studies have addressed the problem of stigmatization among drug addicts. Specific social beliefs and opinions drive social stigma and stigma occurs when an individual is termed as an antisocial due to some perceived behavioral flaws. According to Palamer (2013), social stigma includes stereotype and labelling. In his recent metanalysis, discrimination due to gender, race or mental conditions are the most prevalent. Stigmatization on the other hand is a process by which an individual is stigmatized, labelled or termed as a disgrace or unworthy due to engaging in perceived negative acts. For this reason, they may seek self-isolation as they feel unwanted.

Frischknecht, Beckhmann, Heinrich, Kniest, Nakovics, (2011), and their colleagues conducted a study that assessed the vicious circle of stigmatization, anxiety, depressiveness, and low quality associated with heroin addicts. They noted that stigmatization may cause discrimination, loss of status and separation. Although stigmatization attitudes serve as an individual’s protective measure to abstain from addiction in some people, to others it may lead to adverse outcomes among those who don’t want to refrain. In this regard, the negative impacts of stigmatization dates to its infancy. Those who stigmatize drug users are reported to have no contact with users. While both Palamer (2013) and Frischknecht et al., (2011) identify and discuss the aspects of stigma, including its role in increasing addiction and its effects on individual and society, this essay extends the problem of stigmatization of drug addicts through exploring the reasons why drug addicts are stigmatized. Emancipating the public on an objectified information on drugs may lessen the effects of stigma, hence a greater way to fight addiction as a health issue, as opposed to a moral issue.

According to a study by Palamar (2013), a respondent who is old, a drug user and links with users stand s a higher chance to report that alcohol is actually a drug. The study further reveals that white, older, users and exposed to users’ respondents termed nicotine as a drug especially on the female clique. On whites, religious and those who report higher stigmatization stands a higher chance of terming addiction as a choice. Females with the first degree are prone to do otherwise. Nonwhite, older and those who have experienced stigmatization stands a high chance to reveal the bad effects of marijuana and heroin. Exposure, higher degree and drug use altered the same. According to Frischknecht et al., 2011, even in politics, people discriminate candidates who have had history of drug addiction. For instance, Non-whites, who have faced stigmatization and are religious could not vote for a candidate who is a drug addict. Those with a degree, use drugs and relate with drug users had a higher chance of voting for an addicted candidate. Individuals inclined to religiosity, and had been stigmatized at higher levels have a low chance to agree that they would use drugs if they were legal. This shows that educated people will rarely stigmatize drug addicts as compared to the rest of population.

Stigmatization is not a detriment to understanding the drug nature of alcohol or nicotine. Alcoholics who are of color stands a lower chance of understanding that nicotine can be termed as a drug. The difference between legal and illegal drugs is still complex because of their simplicity in purchase. It’s however notable that these drugs pose danger to users due to psychoactive and detrimental effects. Emancipated and educated females refute that an individual’s choice can make one an addict especially amongst the minority racially discriminated societies (Palamer, 2013). Criminalization of drugs is one of the major causes of stigmatization. While Palamer (2013) note that trying drug for the first time can be a personal choice, it is not the choice of addicts to compulsively abuse drugs. However, when nations started passing anti-drug legislations, they sent a message to societies that drug use is immoral. Since then, drug abuse has been associated with other crimes such as prostitution, drug trafficking, rape, murder and thievery.

It is important to note that these anti-drug laws have made it very difficult even for people who recover from drug abuse to reintegrate with other members of society. In most countries, one is required to declare whether or not they have ever used drugs in their lifetime when they are seeking employment in some careers. Consequently, it has become very hard for people with drug abuse and drug addiction history to get jobs in such societies. Besides, governments have been strict to drug addicts even when they are reviewing their driving license credibility. People who have history of drug addiction always face difficulties when trying to get driving licenses or even receive welfare benefits. Such stigmatization caused by criminalizing drug abuse makes it difficult for former drug addicts to adopt long-term recovery method.

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Another factor that contributes to stigmatization of drug addicts is high rates of relapse that surrounds the phenomenon. While Frischknecht et al., (2011) agrees that many people in society doesn’t understand substance use disorders, it is significant to point out that drug addiction is different from other diseases. While there are other chronic diseases that also have relatively high relapse rate, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, people with drug addiction are influenced by various factors including developmental, environmental, and also genetic factors. People however, tend to stigmatize drug addicts while treating those who encounter relapse from other chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

A good public education is good in reducing stigma associated with addiction especially if the concerned learn that addiction is a medical, rather than perceptional ideal; and that some people are susceptible than others. Educated people are able to distinguish the strengths of different drugs. Minorities who are racially segregated, are religiously inclined and have been stigmatized agree that all drugs are dangerous. Those who stigmatize addicts agree that any type of drug is dangerous and unacceptable. Those who stigmatize users are under educated or are not informed about drugs and otherwise. Illicit drug users agree that marijuana use is okay but refute hard drugs like heroin or cocaine.

The language used to refer to former or current drug addicts also plays a significant role in promoting stigma among this group. Using language such as “substance abuser” evokes negative reactions to members of society. When the terms “substance abuser” is used to refer to a person who has history of drug addiction, members of society often perceive them as guilty of drug abuse and therefore in need of punitive measures. Several terms have been proposed to help language-use as a source of stigma among drug addicts. For instance, there has been proposals for the term “addict” to be replaced with “person with a substance use disorder” and “addiction” with “substance use disorder”. Use of preferred language can be very helpful in tackling stigmatization among drug addicts.

Stigma related to alcoholism is the most common in the societies. Those who are known to use alcohol and other related substances at the work place are subjected to negative assumptions, as their ability to be productive is doubted by other colleagues. They are therefore discriminated during hiring or promotion hence experiencing discrimination; which affect their career progression. They are also marginalized and excluded in major decision making and life is important hat workplaces implement policies and other measures to help employees who are on drugs. This should be done inadvertently in order to reduce the effects of stigmatization including the use of whole-of-workplace approach.

In conclusion, reduced stigma may curtail drug addiction or even deteriorate it. While the two studies have explored the issue of stigma widely, this essay has extended the argument by focusing on factors that cause stigmatization, including criminalizing drug abuse, high rates of relapse among former drug addicts and the language used to refer to drug addicts. Education is the only antidote to misinformation and myths to addicts. Media education can increase emancipation and reduce stigma. In the US for example, addicts are educated on an objective manner to help them view addiction as a health other than moral construct. Workplace anti -stigma strategies can be employed to address addiction without stigmatizing. They include societal support, availing education and information, policies and support.

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Stigma and Drug Addiction: Analytical Essay. (2022, July 14). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from
“Stigma and Drug Addiction: Analytical Essay.” Edubirdie, 14 Jul. 2022,
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