Overcoming the Social Stigma of Addiction Treatment
By Lee Weber
Stigmatizing attitudes in the U.S. regarding addiction are widely accepted, culturally endorsed, and enshrined in policy (criminal law). In these cases, the stigma of substance use problems may produce negative effects, such as:
• Increase of substance use among younger adolescents
• Decreased public interest in applying solutions
• Decreased motivation in people to seek help
In fact, several studies have found that substance use disorders are more highly stigmatized than other health conditions. Through the stigma, social groups discourage and marginalize addiction, which seriously affect the people in risk. However, the social stigma of “addicts as abnormal” has created a stereotype about addiction and its treatment that is SIMPLY NOT TURE.
How can we cope with the negative stereotypes surrounding addiction? And what are its dangers? We explore here. Then, we invite your feedback or questions at the end.
Dangers Of The Stigma: Not Asking For Help
Very often people who are diagnosed with addiction, a.k.a. substance use disorders, are perceived to have control over their illness. The blame and pressure thrown at them can change the way they view themselves. People respond to this stigma with anger and punishment or avoidance, holding addicts responsible for their behavior. Psychological breakdown is a common occurrence in these harsh emotional and/or physical attacks. What does the stigma result in?
1. Fear of the process
People who are facing addiction often suppress their feelings of shame and accept the problem as their own fault, putting too much burden on their backs. This is a time when self-esteem starts crashing. People who are victims of the stigma of addiction see themselves as too weak to solve their own problems, which decreases the willingness to change lessen.
2. Fear of punishment
The fear of losing a child, friend, job, or medical insurance can provoke people to deny a problem with addiction. A system which punishes addicts through mandatory sentencing frustrates the treatment process. It causes people to hide rather than to seek help.
3. Fear of social judgment
Substance use behaviors are often linked symbolically to a range of other stigmatized health conditions such as:
• Hepatitis C virus
• Mental illness
• Social problems (poverty, criminality)
Negative stereotypes guide social action, public policy and the allocation of health-care expenditures. Therefore, people with substance use disorders may experience stigma as a consequence of the culturally endorsed stereotypes that surround the health condition.
How To Cope With The Stigma Of Addiction?
There are many studies that show how self-stigma can be reduced through therapeutic interventions such as group-based acceptance and commitment therapy. Some effective strategies address social stigma by sharing positive stories of people who have successfully struggled with the stigma of addiction and do motivational interviewing. Some of the steps you can take to cope with the stigma include:
STEP 1. Accept addiction as an illness and learn how you can heal from it. Do not blame yourself! There are many circumstances that lead to this condition.
STEP 2. Attend a self-help group such as SMART Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous which can support you while recovering. You are not alone. Many people have walked the same way and their experiences can help you manage your addiction easier.
STEP 3. Learn more about addiction through psychotherapy. You will understand how addiction works and how it affects you physically and psychologically. This was the goal of creating Addiction Blog. Educating yourself can help you prepare for living a substance-free life. The therapy you choose will help you build up your self-confidence and self-esteem again, and create new healthy habits that will help you overcome any possible relapse.
STEP 4. Talk to your friends or family about your concerns and explain how and what you feel in your relationship with them. Although you may feel “emotionally exposed” when you let your guard down, directly expressing to the key individuals in your life just how important their understanding and acknowledgement is to you can boost your chances for a successful recovery. Many recent studies show that when you have a strong social support network working in your favor, your chances for a full recovery increase markedly. Letting the important people in your life know that their support will mean a lot to your recovery from addiction can strengthen your relationship and bring you closer together.
How Can We Advocate For Addiction Treatment In Public?
There are a few ways to advocate for addiction treatment. The first is to contact your local, state, and federal lawmakers to communicate your interest in the subject. Look into NGOs like Faces and Voices of Recovery or The National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence (NCADD) for precise suggestions. Join advocacy groups in your area that work to increase public awareness of this issue. Or, commit to your local community addiction recovery center through volunteer work. Just get out there, and become a face of addiction recovery.
On a broader level there are some initiatives that can be replicated. It is these larger changes in public policy and funding that can affect our society in general. In fact, a couple of programs have been developed so far. Some of them cover:
New curriculum for medical students – Programs that educate medical students about the problem of substance use. By exposing them to people with substance use disorders earlier in their training, it will decrease their stigmatizing attitudes and increase comfort levels towards working with this population.
Law enforcement training – Interventions that target police officers and substance use counselors have positive effects on stigma-related outcomes associated with substance use disorders. These interventions can affect prejudices built surrounding the stigma and make their approach more neutral when working with alcohol or drug addicted folks.
The Importance Of Reducing The Social Stigma Around Addiction Treatment
Improving the attitudes and perceptions of the general public towards people diagnosed with addiction may be best accomplished through communication strategies that promote positive stories and through motivational interviewing approaches with particular target groups (landlords or employers). With more tolerance and understanding, people who suffer from addiction can easily get the help they need without a fear of being discriminated against. However, these changes can best begin WITH US. Talking about addiction, recovery, and treatment can open people’s eyes to the problem. Each of us in addiction recovery can be a spokesperson, supporting those who come after us.
Overcoming Social Stigma Around Addiction Treatment Questions
Did you find this article useful? If you still have questions about overcoming social stigma around addiction treatment, please write to us at the bottom of the page. We`ll try our best to respond to you personally and promptly…or to refer you to someone who can help. http://addictionblog.org/
NCBI: The effectiveness of interventions for reducing stigma related to substance use disorders
For more on addiction, check out Addiction Blog
How Meditation Can Change How We Live In Addiction Recovery
By Lee Weber
What Is Meditation, Exactly?
This is not an easy question to answer. In fact, there are as many definitions of meditation as there are practices to support it. However, we can think of meditation as a state of just “Being.”
Meditation is a state when you are not doing any activity on a physical or mental level. During meditation, all actions cease. Thinking, focusing on something, analyzing…these activities are calmed. When you are doing nothing, and focusing on one point, you can become completely relaxed, in a state of meditative calm or stillness. This generates what is known as the Relaxation Response. Once you understand and internalize this process and become used to such a state, you can easily insert meditation into your everyday actions without disturbance such as:
Note here that meditation is not “against” action per se, and surely is not a method used to escape from life. Instead, meditative practices can help optimize the experience of living in a way that brings more clarity, creativity, intensity and joy. Living in a meditative way helps you become more objective, simply seeing everything that is happening around you—released from prejudices, criticisms and judgments. It is a wonderful state of Being that allows you to enhance and develop your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual awareness and intelligence.
The Benefits Of Meditation
You have probably heard how meditation is good for you. But do you know the exact benefits of meditation? There are many scientific studies that cover many aspects of meditation’s health benefits. Here, we name few:
- Amps up your immune system
- Helps you have a good night’s sleep
- Improves both physical and emotional responses to stress
- Improves your ability to concentrate and focus
- Improves and normalizes your metabolism
- Increase levels of serotonin in the body which improves your mood and behavior
- Lowers blood pressure
- Reduces aging
- Reduces anxiety attacks
- Results in personal transformation
Meditating around 20 minutes per day for several weeks is enough time to start experiencing these benefits to some degree. Mindfulness techniques are also widely used as a surrogate for antidepressants in substance abuse therapy since they tend to decrease the effects of depression. This can be a big step forward in your path to addiction recovery.
Meditation Techniques In Addiction Recovery
Some meditative approaches can be used as complementary addiction treatment therapies to increase the effectiveness of the traditional ones. These therapies work by changing your attention and focus from banal, mindless, automatic mental and behavioral processes, to an attentional focus that cultivates greater mindfulness. Recent studies show that Mindfulness based therapy can be an effective remedy for the treatment of addictions. Here we briefly describe three (3) current exemplary clinical research programs used for addiction treatment:
- In the Mindfulness-Based Relapse Prevention (MBRP) model, mindful movement includes light stretching and other basic, gentle movements. Each movement is guided with physical safety and respect for the body as a primary concern, and participants are instructed to stay with the movement as it happening, observing physical sensations of moving and stretching, while also noticing striving, thoughts, and judgments about the body. During MBRP, formal asanas are not taught because instructors are typically not trained in yoga. Plus, people recovering from addiction often have physical limitations that preclude performing traditional asanas, and formal yoga can be seen as inaccessible.
- The Mindfulness Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) method is a 10-session, group-based, psychoeducational intervention designed to disrupt cognitive, affective, and physiological mechanisms implicated in alcohol dependence. Although MORE does not include yoga, it does include mindful breathing, body scans, mindfulness of perceptions & sensations, mindful walking, and compassion meditation (loving-kindness, or metta). MORE also includes a focus on meditative approaches to coping with cravings (“urge surfing”), as well as education & training about how to identify and skillfully change, or mindfully let be, mental processes like thought suppression, aversion, and attachment – all of which are theoretically and phenomenologically part of alcohol dependence and other forms of addiction.
- The Mindfulness Training for Smoking Cessation (MTSC) regimen includes regulating attention, cultivating an attitude of acceptance & non-judgment, and developing a specific set of meta-cognitive skills characterized by the ability to observe and discriminate one’s inner experience of thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations with a sense of equanimity. Together, these core mindfulness skills and perspectives are expected to support smokers in quitting by helping them decrease avoidance, tolerate unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, and unlearn highly conditioned stimulus-response patterns by deliberately observing yet not reacting to impermanent feelings of stress or discomfort.
Achieving Balance In Life
Achieving balance in life really comes down to being in a good state of mind and body where you are able to focus on one aspect that requires your full attention at a time. Then, you’re more able to juggle all other aspects of life that are important to you. This is the opposite of a typical multi-tasking approach to getting things done that many of us take. Recent studies confirm that people who are the most effective and get the most important things done in a day—achieving outstanding results not just activity—use such a laser-like focus approach for task completion.
As priorities and circumstances change, your balance will also need a little tweaking. Our minds often put us into a more intense state of confusion and tension than actually we are in—thus heightening our feelings and perception of chaos. When we learn to relax, we can often make better decisions or realize that we have more choices in a situation than if we’re feeling under pressure. Meditation can help you adapt to new situations in your life by giving you the time and calmness to understand all aspects of that specific situation. Being objective or more specifically, not identifying with what is happening to you, can bring out the best in you.
So, it’s about being prepared to deal with the good and the bad times as they come. But also being open to learn as new situations test our views and comfort zones. In many ways, balance means growing and adapting.
Questions About Meditating In Recovery?
Meditation can really change the way we perceive life. It is not just about sitting for some amount of time with your eyes closed. There are a huge number of meditation techniques, and by experimenting, you can find what kind of meditation best fits your mind and body.
For any further questions or comments, please use the comments section below. We are happy to help you explore the meaning of meditation in addiction recovery or in life in general, by answering your questions personally and promptly. http://addictionblog.org/
PTSD: Mindfulness Practice in the Treatment of Traumatic Stress
NCBI: A Narrative Review of Yoga and Mindfulness as Complementary Therapies for Addiction
For more on addiction, check out Addiction Blog.
The Efficacy of Anxiety Treatment While Treating Addiction
By Lee Weber
The high rate of comorbidity between anxiety and addiction calls for a comprehensive approach that can identify and evaluate both. Here we explain how anxiety is treated and how effective this treatment can be when treating addiction. At the end of the page we invite your questions, comments and experiences with anxiety and addiction treatment.
What Is Anxiety Treatment?
All of us worry about health, money, or family problems at one time or another. But people with GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) are extremely worried about these and many other things, even when there is little or no reason to worry. They may be very anxious just about getting through the day. With proper treatment, many people with anxiety disorders can lead normal, fulfilling lives.
If your doctor thinks you may have an anxiety disorder, the next step is usually seeing a mental health professional. It is advisable to seek help from professionals who have particular expertise in diagnosing and treating anxiety. Certain kinds of cognitive and behavioral therapies and certain medications have been found to be especially helpful for lessening anxiety.
What Is Anxiety Treatment Like?
In general, anxiety disorders are treated with medication, specific types of psychotherapy, or with a combination of both treatment approaches. Treatment choices depend on the type of disorder, the person’s preference, and the expertise of the clinician.
People with anxiety disorders who have already received treatment should inform their clinician about any course of previous treatment in detail. If you received medication, you should tell your doctor what medication was used, what was the dosage at the beginning of treatment, whether the dosage was increased or decreased while you were under treatment, what side effects occurred, and whether the treatment helped you become less anxious or not. If you received psychotherapy, you should describe the type of therapy, how often you attended sessions, and whether the therapy was useful or effective in reducing your anxiety.
Medication does not necessarily cure anxiety disorders, but it often reduces the symptoms. The principal medications used for anxiety disorders are antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and beta-blockers. Be aware that some medications are effective only if they are taken regularly and that symptoms may recur if the medication is stopped.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can be useful in treating anxiety disorders. It can help people change the habitual thinking patterns that support their fears and change the way they react to anxiety-provoking situations. For example, CBT can help people with panic disorder learn that their panic attacks are not really heart attacks, and help people with social phobia learn how to overcome the belief that others are always watching and judging them. When people are ready to confront their fears, they are shown how to use exposure techniques to desensitize themselves to situations that trigger their anxieties.
CBT may be conducted individually or with a group of people who have similar problems. Group therapy is particularly effective for social phobia. Often “homework” is assigned for participants to complete between sessions. If a disorder recurs at a later date, the same therapy can be used to treat it successfully a second time.
Does Anxiety Treatment Work To Treat Addiction?
Several behavioral therapies have shown promise for treating comorbid conditions. These approaches can be tailored to patients according to age, specific drug abused, and other factors. Sometimes, a physical evaluation is advisable to determine whether a person’s anxiety is associated with a physical illness. If anxiety is diagnosed, the pattern of co-occurring symptoms should be identified, as well as any coexisting conditions, such as depression or substance abuse.
IMPORTANT NOTE HERE: Sometimes alcoholism, depression, or other coexisting conditions have such a strong effect on the individual that treating the anxiety should wait until the coexisting conditions are brought under control.
How Effective Is Anxiety Treatment For Addiction?
CBT has received the greatest amount of empirical support for the psychological treatment of anxiety disorders. To be effective, therapy must be directed at the person’s specific anxieties and must be tailored to his or her needs. A typical “side effect” is temporary discomfort involved with thinking about confronting feared situations.
Stress management techniques and meditation can help people with anxiety disorders calm themselves and may enhance the effects of therapy. There is preliminary evidence that aerobic exercise may have a calming effect. Since caffeine, certain illicit drugs, and even some over-the-counter cold medications can aggravate the symptoms of anxiety disorders, avoiding them should be considered. Check with your physician or pharmacist before taking any additional medications.
What Is The Outcome Of Anxiety Treatment For Addiction?
If we take into account the mutual maintenance pattern between co-occuring anxiety and substance abuse disorders, it is not surprising that both conditions impact each other’s course of treatment and treatment outcome. But, considering that anxiety disorders cannot be “cured”, a complete resolution of symptoms and absolute relapse prevention are not expected outcomes due to the following factors:
• Lingering symptoms
• Vulnerability to normal anxiety
• Stress-related intensification of symptoms
• Stress-related recurring anxiety
• Unresolved childhood attachment issues
• Unresolved childhood and adult existential grief issues
However, maintaining a functional recovery is an achievable goal. Especially since all of the above mentioned factors are directly addressed through CBT, which increases the chances of a successful recovery and improves long-term outcomes.
What Are The Benefits Of Anxiety Treatment For Addiction?
Dual diagnosis treatment helps people deal with the challenges of co-occuring disorders such as addiction and anxiety. It’s important to seek professional help since emotional instability can accelerate and is exasperated by substance abuse, allowing the vicious cycle to repeat itself. These are the goals and benefits of engaging in specialized treatment:
• Get a better understanding of how these two conditions are linked
• Deal with both, anxiety and addiction at the same time
• Effectively stop the addiction by managing the anxiety
• Prevent relapse by learning how to deal with fear, stress and grief in daily life
• Manage or cope with the anxiety associated with substance abuse cravings
• Learning healthy ways to cope with anxiety symptoms without the use of substances
• Acquire a state of inner calm and balance to help focus on the rehabilitation process
Anxiety Treatment And The Treatment Of Addiction
There are a variety of treatment options available but there are no one-size-fits all options when it comes to successfully treating addiction challenges and co-occurring anxiety issues. Some therapies have proven more effective for adolescents, while others have shown greater effectiveness for adults; some are designed for families and groups, others for individuals.
Effective medications exist for treating opioid, alcohol, and nicotine addictions and for alleviating the symptoms of many other mental disorders, yet most have not been well studied in comorbid populations. However, some medications may have a benefit and treat multiple problems. For example, evidence suggests that bupropion (trade names: Wellbutrin, Zyban), approved for treating depression and nicotine dependence, might also help reduce craving and use of the drug methamphetamine. More research is needed, however, to better understand how these medications work, particularly when combined in patients with comorbidities.
The Efficacy Of Anxiety Treatment While Treating Addiction Questions
Do you still have questions concerning anxiety and addiction treatment? Ask us anything and we will try to get back to you personally and promptly.
NIH: Anxiety Disorders
NCBI: Current Diagnosis and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
Women’s Health: Anxiety disorders fact sheet
NIH: Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Disorders
For more on addiction, check out Addiction Blog.
Forgiveness: Let go of your grief, guilt, and grudges by learning to forgive yourself and others.