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Effects of Social Stigma on Drug Abuse

The impact of societal stigma on the experiences and results of people living with substance abuse is significant. Negative attitudes, stereotyping, and discrimination linked with substance abuse typically have a variety of harmful consequences for affected individuals and society as a whole (Goldman 1271). Due to the negative thoughts and feelings of shame, guilt, and isolation they foster, stigmatizing attitudes can make it challenging to seek help. Additionally, fears about their reputations may deter people from seeking help, which feeds the cycle of addiction and its associated issues. Understanding the powerful effects of social stigma is critical for developing effective drug misuse prevention and rehabilitation measures.

America’s Drug Abuse Change Due To Stigma Reduction

Stigma reduction is a crucial step taken by the USA, which has positively played a key role in reducing drug abuse. Within society, people view drug usage as an immoral act, and therefore, people tend to distance themselves from drug addicts and may end up treating them negatively. Without the stigma, substance abusers are more likely to seek therapy. After the stigma was lifted, drug addicts had greater treatment options (Tovino and Stacey, 783). As social views change, policymakers and healthcare practitioners see the need to move away from punitive approaches and toward more compassionate and health-oriented solutions. Therefore if substance abusers are not judged, they are more likely to get the care they need.

The second aspect that changed as a result of the changes in stigma perception is access to medical care. Since people have reduced their negative attitudes, people are socially and mentally comfortable seeking medical care from the available health centres. Additionally, resources have also been deployed to cater for drug addicts; this act was not previously done. Integrating prevention, treatment, and recovery services into healthcare systems is the most effective strategy to combat substance misuse and its effects. Recent healthcare reform laws and other trends are enabling deeper integration to serve individual and public health better, decrease health inequities, and lower costs.

The third aspect is enhanced treatment outcomes, where a person who uses drugs is able to fully utilize the opportunity effectively in terms of taking the proper medication and other medical requirements on time and within the correct dosage (Earnshaw, 1300). This has greatly influenced the medical outcome that patients get, which has been positive and promoted faster recovery of patients. This works form the logical point of view that human recovers well under a supportive environment rather than a hostile environment full of stigma (Byungkyu et al. 14). It is clear that some of the treatment requires one to engage in outdoor exercise that involves interaction with the society who impact is direct to the treatment outcome of the patient. A supportive society will bridge the success of the exercise recovery, while a non-supportive society will cause patients to give up and have negative recovery progress.

The fourth change in the United States is that there have been evidenced prevention and harm reduction efforts. It is clear that after reducing stigma, initiatives have actively promoted the fight against drug abuse. Now more than ever, health awareness rallies and campaigns may be simply and publicly organized through the use of social media platforms, traditional media, and live crusades (Byungkyu et al. 14). A substantial quantity of knowledge about drug usage has been generated as a result of increasing openness and campaigns, and as a direct result, a significant percentage of drug addiction has been avoided. This is due to the fact that individuals may learn about the harmful consequences of drugs and either avoid them or put in place early mechanisms to wean themselves off of their reliance on them.

The last change that has occurred is the reduction of social barriers. Social barriers are situations that individuals are born into, grow up in, live in, learn from, and work in throughout their lives; these factors are also known as social determinants of health (Lima 27). Social barriers can lead to impaired functioning among persons who have impairments. Some instances of societal obstacles are as follows: People with impairments have a far lower chance of finding gainful employment. It is, therefore, clear that when social barriers are removed, drug addicts can be able to interact with other people without discrimination or marginalization easily; when patients are able to build relationships with society, it directly helps them to acquire the proper medical and social support to promote effective recovery.

Effects of Treating Drug Abuse As a Mental Problem Rather Than a Criminal Offense

Treating Drug abuse as a mental problem rather than a criminal offence has significantly reduced crimes associated with drug abuse, with proper prevention treatment and recovery, people with drug abuse problems have been found to be responsible people within the society free from dangerous criminal acts in the society (Byungkyu et al. 16). various reasons have been associated with the reduction of this crime rates which includes; firstly, prioritizing treatment over punishment has been so positive in obtaining a long term solution to drug abuse it is clear that when a person is treated and leaves the drug habits they tend to avoid it for the longest time possible and in most cases they never go back to using the drug again, but on the other hand if they are just punished or jailed for sometimes they are later own released but with the same drug behaviour and therefore the crime rate is still constant without any change. Therefore with this creative and healthy approach, drug abuse in the USA has dramatically reduced and will continue to reduce.

The second aspect is that de-stigmatization and treatment of drug abuse as a mental issue have caused people to voluntarily seek help from public health facilities without fearing being jailed. This has given drug abusers the ability to come out clean and explain their problems to the medical officers who have been supportive in providing intervention to control drug abuse and ensuring that the high number of people suffering from drug abuse are able to receive care and restrain from doing crimes in the society (Lima 25). With quality treatment and exercise, people slowly restrain from crimes associated with taking drugs; it is clear that when people are under the influence of drugs, they lack substantial thinking in acquiring basic needs and services and engage in unlawful activities.

Thirdly, treating drug abuse as a mental issue rather than a crime has significantly boosted preventive strategies and early intervention. Some of the ways that this has been achieved are through providing education and promoting mental health resources (Volkow 15). Providing proper open education in society to students and also elderly people generally help in ensuring that they are not encouraged to engage in drug taking or instead helps guide people who have already started using it to stop or reduce it. This intervention is very crucial in ensuring that the number of drug abusers is significantly reduced within the society. The reduction of drug abusers directly means that all the crimes associated with drug abuse are reduced.

Finally, one of the best strategies for reducing harm is shifting the focus from treating drug usage as a criminal offence to treating it as a mental health issue. This can be accomplished by the implementation of needle exchange programs, safe injection places, and responsible drug use (Janet et al. 34). These characteristics primarily work towards mitigating the more severe side effects that the medication has on the patient. When these impacts are reduced over time, the volume of drug influence and diseases related to drug use are cabbed, fostering harmony and peace among society rather than rising crime rates. This is because the ailments are related to drug use.

Causes of Drugs Other Than Beverage Alcohol Being Historically Stigmatized

Over time, alcohol has been consumed by people in the United States without stigmatization for centuries. Some of the reasons that have been associated with this scenario include; cultural and moral values. It is clear that when people are raised, they get used to the environment around them, meaning that the way of life in society is ingrained into their system (Meyers et al., 108707). Based on the same consideration, it is clear that people learn to accept alcohol as part of their normal life drinks without any discrimination, just the same way people are able to learn the foods and cultural settings of their ancestors without questioning or having stigma. Nevertheless, on the other hand, hard drugs have not been part of people’s lives and have been introduced by addicts or other teenage friends; it is therefore viewed as foreign and therefore stigmatized.

The second aspect is that government policies and media have been extensively used for advertising alcohol, making it seem just like a normal drug within society that can be used to cheer up people. However, it always comes with the drink responsibly notice and is restricted to people above the required age limit. The same media has also been used to stigmatize other drugs and consider them harmful to human life (National Academies of Sciences). Over time, the media has been used to air out programs showing the effects of drugs on people or cover drug-associated crimes, which have greatly helped in building negative consideration of the drug by the general public since they are able to see the effects associated with the drugs. Additionally, government policies have also been strict on drug abuse, and therefore, many people are seen to refrain from using it, and one seen using the drug is considered an outcast, and they may face a high rate of stigmatization.

Racial prejudice and historical event are other aspects that have highly contributed to the stigmatization of drugs such as opium which has been highly linked with the Chinese who migrated to the United States (Renner and John 137). It is, therefore, clear that some people were disadvantaged. Therefore, the drugs that were associated with them were entirely banned and considered toxic to people, which was very crucial in increasing the stigmatization of those types of drugs and also increasing the stigma of people addicted to them. On the other hand, alcohol was embraced by the states and therefore promoted favourable consideration free from stigmatization.

Perception of harm and social disruption is another crucial factor that has promoted the stigmatization of drugs for a very long period of time (Renner and John 138). Hard drugs have been associated with rogue behaviour within society, which has disrupted people’s harmony through actions such as noise, burglary and rape cases which has greatly fueled negative attitudes towards these drugs. Additionally, these drugs have been proven to affect the person’s health using them drastically. Therefore, many people find it destructive rather than productive as far as health issues are concerned.

Conclusively, the USA has dramatically changed the drug abuse narrative by considering it a mental issue rather than a criminal offence. This has given drug addicts the opportunity to seek medical attention freely without any stigma, promoting quality health care outcomes. Apart from quality health care, this approach has also significantly reduced crime rates based on the fact that people who use drugs have been extensively absorbed in the treatment sessions, and therefore, crimes being committed by people on drugs are very minimal as compared to the past time when many drug addicts were in the streets rather than in treatment.

Works Cited

Byungkyu et al. “Systematic evaluation of state policy interventions targeting the US opioid epidemic, 2007-2018.” JAMA Network Open 4.2 (2021): e2036687-e2036687.

Earnshaw, Valerie A. “Stigma and substance use disorders: A clinical, research, and advocacy agenda.” American Psychologist 75.9 (2020): 1300.

Barry, Colleen L., et al. “Stigma, discrimination, treatment effectiveness, and policy: public views about drug addiction and mental illness.” Psychiatric Services 65.10 (2014): 1269–1272.

Lima, “Humanity and the Use of Substances: A Historical Overview.” Drugs and Human Behavior: Biopsychosocial Aspects of Psychotropic Substances Use (2021): 3-26.

Meyers, S.A., et al. “The Intersection of Gender and Drug Use-Related Stigma: A Mixed Methods Systematic Review and Synthesis of the Literature.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 223, 2021, p. 108706. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2021.108706.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2016). Ending discrimination against people with mental and substance use disorders: The evidence for stigma change. National Academies Press.

Renner Jr, John A. “Counteracting the effect of stigma on education for substance use disorders.” FOCUS, A Journal of the American Psychiatric Association 17.2 (2019): 134–140.

Tovino, Stacey A. “Stigma in the Statute: When the Language of the Law Injuries.” William & Mary Law Review 64.3 (2023): 783.

Volkow, Nora D. “America’s addiction to opioids: Heroin and prescription drug abuse.” Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control 14 (2014): 1–16.

Zwick, Janet, et al. “Stigma: How It Affects the Substance Use Disorder Patient.” Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, vol. 15, no. 1, 2020, doi: 10.1186/s13011-020-00288-0.


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