PORTSMOUTH – One of the biggest obstacles to successfully addressing the current opioid crisis is the stigma associated with the people involved.
People with a substance abuse disorder are often ashamed, and do not seek help. Families feel isolated, not receiving the support that they would if their loved one’s disease were anything other than addiction.
Health care experts agree that if the nation is going to get a handle on this crisis, everyone must recognize that this is a disease, and not a choice. No one wakes up one day and says he or she wants to become an addict.
Dr. Seddon Savage, lead educational adviser on substance disorders to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, who also co-chairs the Governor’s Opioid Task Force Commission, says the fact that not everyone who experiments with drugs or alcohol gets addicted, defines the fact that it is an illness, just as not everyone gets diabetes, or heart disease despite taking part in the same risk factors.
“It is certainly a choice to take part in the activity, and most of us do at some point in our lives,” said Savage. “We do not all end up addicted. There are many factors, genetic, stress, childhood trauma and so many more that lead us to addictive behaviors. We do not choose that part. It is an illness. I find it stunning that we are still blaming people.”
Allison Tuttle is a licensed drug and alcohol counselor at Families First Health and Support Center. She said the stigma related to individuals with substances disorders is huge.
“Many people with SUDs stigmatize themselves,” said Tuttle. “They feel it is a bad choice they made. They think it is their fault that they ended up sick. The reality is that everyone, including individuals with substance use disorders are stuck in the old school thought process that confronting denial is the solution. That is not to say that increasing motivation and helping individuals see how their…