Types of Addictions

Students Together Opposing Prejudice 

Addiction And Stigma

The concept of stigma describes the powerful, negative perceptions commonly associated with substance abuse and addiction. Stigma has the potential to negatively affect a person’s self-esteem, damage relationships with loved ones, and prevent those suffering from addiction from accessing treatment. Stigma is a public health issue — it contributes to high rates of death, incarceration, and mental health concerns among dependent populations.


Stigma is defined as a set of negative beliefs that a group or society holds about a topic or group of people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion and it contributes to the abuse of human rights. When a person experiences stigma they are seen as less than because of their real or perceived health status. Stigma is rarely based on facts but rather on assumptions, preconceptions, and generalizations; therefore, its negative impact can be prevented or lessened through education. Stigma results in prejudice, avoidance, rejection, and discrimination against people who have a socially undesirable trait or engage in culturally marginalized behaviors, such as drug use.

Family, friends and the general public can carry negative feelings about drug use or behavior. They may even use derogatory terms such as “junkie,” “alcoholic,” "bum", or “crackhead.” These thoughts, feelings, and labels can create and perpetuate stigma.

Many people don't understand why or how other people become addicted to drugs. They may mistakenly think that those who use drugs lack moral principles or willpower and that they could stop their drug use simply by choosing to. In reality, drug addiction is a complex disease, and quitting usually takes more than good intentions or a strong will. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting hard, even for those who want to. Fortunately, researchers know more than ever about how drugs affect the brain and have found treatments that can help people recover from drug addiction and lead productive lives.

Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by drug seeking and use that is compulsive, or difficult to control, despite harmful consequences. The initial decision to take drugs is voluntary for most people, but repeated drug use can lead to brain changes that challenge an addicted person’s self-control and interfere with their ability to resist intense urges to take drugs. These brain changes can be persistent, which is why drug addiction is considered a "relapsing" disease—people in recovery from drug use disorders are at increased risk for returning to drug use even after years of not taking the drug.


Choice or Disease?

Understanding Drug Abuse


Addiction: Choice or Disease?

Prejudice, Discrimination and Stereotyping