By definition, a stereotype is a widely held, but fixed and oversimplified, image or idea of a particular type of person or thing. Although in some cases substance abuse stereotypes
may carry some truth, they are more often than not prejudice, false, and extremely hurtful to those being stereotyped.
What can we do about the negative impact of these stereotypes?
Unfortunately, the negative connotations surrounding these stereotypes may also cause many addicts to feel embarrassed, ashamed and unable to seek help without judgement. Therefore, it’s our job as a society to disarm and disassemble these destructive stereotypes, by educating ourselves on the true causes and issues behind substance abuse.
Addicts are uneducated, poor or homeless
This stereotype is hugely common, and of course entirely untrue. While it may be true that in some cases poverty and no access to education may lead to or fuel substance abuse, some drug addicts and alcoholics are highly educated, wealthy individuals.
Of course your immediate living environment can directly influence your habits, but addiction can happen to people from all walks of life.
Addicts always look dirty or unhealthy
People may think of drug addicts and alcoholics as unhygienic or physically unwell. The truth, however, is that many people with substance abuse issues either cover up physical symptoms and signs, or manage these symptoms on a “functioning” level.
This means that even a person who showers every day or looks physically fine, may still be battling with substance abuse or addiction.
Addicts are to blame for their substance abuse or addiction
Unfortunately, many people tend to show a lack of sympathy for those who have substance abuse or problems surrounding addiction. It’s not uncommon for others to feel like they are to blame, or that they are choosing to be the way they are.
In reality, certain people are more likely to develop addictions to substances than others, and it has nothing to do with them choosing to be that way.
In addition, habits are extremely hard to break. Others may feel stuck and not know how to get out, while others might just not know any differently or feel that they have no other choice.
Alcohol and drugs can also have extreme negative effects on a person’s mental health, especially when they abuse substances.
Unfortunately, those suffering with substance abuse often also experience depression and anxiety, which may cause them to get sucked into a cycle of further substance abuse, as well as avoid seeking help.
Addicts are dangerous
In some cases, alcohol and drug abuse can lead to acts of anger and violence, causing physical and emotional harm on the abuser and those around them. However, what these substances actually do is that they enhance a person’s emotions – not only the angry ones, but other ones, too.
In other words, just because a person doesn’t get angry or become physically abusive, does not mean that they aren’t drunk or on drugs. In fact, some people who abuse substances like alcohol or drugs can also come across as overly affectionate.
Often, those who switch to being overly affectionate rather than violent tend to be judged less by others, and may even take longer to be called out to seek help.
Addicts don’t care about themselves or others
Many addicts truly want to change, but they often just don’t know how. Addiction can also come about as a trauma response, or used as a numbing agent to cope with the sadness or reality of one’s situation or life.
It’s important to give everyone the benefit of the doubt – addict or not. However, it’s equally important to know when to step back and seek out professional help. This is imperative, as substance abuse can intermittently change a person’s personality and priorities, regardless of whether they care about themselves or others.
Does a person have to meet all of the above stereotypes to be considered an addict?
As you can see, addicts or substance abusers often don’t fit into the common stereotypes surrounding them. Addiction and substance abuse can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
Moreover, people don’t have to use alcohol or drugs every single day to have substance abuse issues or experience addiction. When a person feels an extreme need to drink or do drugs, no matter how often, it can be a cause of concern.
This is especially true when they over-indulge until they reach a point where they are no longer able to act in a collected or conscious state, or use substances as a way to numb their thoughts and feelings.
You have to fit a stereotypical mould to be allowed to seek help
Addiction and substance abuse is a condition that is treatable, and you do not have to feel like you need to fit a certain mould to be allowed to seek help.
Sometimes, things simply get too tough to do on our own – no matter how hard we try. The right people will never judge you unfairly, but rather help you to find your way back to the happiness and life you deserve.
Get in touch with us
If you have any additional questions on addiction, would like to speak to one of our team members, or want to hear more about the admissions process, feel free to make contact with us at any time. We look forward to helping you and your loved ones