Addressing the Stigma of Addiction


The term addiction refers to the consistent need to engage in a particular activity, despite the harmful effects on the individual’s life. This pattern of behaviour can involve the misuse or overuse of a substance. The need for a mood-altering experience can often be a trigger for an individual suffering from addiction. Addictive substances can result in a large release of dopamine in the brain, the “feel-good” hormone.

Signs of dependency can include changes in personality, changes in daily routines, an unusual need for money and continued use of the substance despite its negative impacts. Alcohol and drug use can occur at different levels, and not everyone who uses these substances is addicted, however when an individual becomes dependent on the substance in any way then it can be classified as an addiction.


A stigma is a feeling of disrespect towards a particular circumstance, quality, or person. In simple terms it is an opinion based on inaccurate stereotypes. Stigmas can be a very difficult thing for an individual suffering from addiction to deal with. They can be hugely harmful in terms of seeking treatment and the recovery process. Individuals often do not want to be identified or stigmatised as “an addict”. This stigma stems from the ignorant belief that a person suffering from addiction is weak. Often peers and individuals in the same situation are not willing to admit that they are suffering. An example of a stigma in terms of seeking help when suffering from addiction could be disapproval from individuals within your peer group.

Stigmas can lead to guilt and shame, sometimes causing an individual to hide their behaviours. Stigmas can also affect self-image and confidence, if an individual suffering from addiction feels labelled and segregated from the rest of society, they may begin to feel socially isolated and experience feelings of depression which can lead to the individual preferring to abuse a substance rather than spend time with family or friends. The individual may feel discouraged regarding their potential for recovery, but in order to recover the individual must believe in both themselves and the process.


To address the stigma, addiction needs to be spoken about openly. Talking openly about addiction can help to address communication barriers. By breaking down those barriers the topic becomes normalised, and it can make it easier for an individual suffering from addiction to seek treatment.

To address stigma, you need to remember to remain compassionate. When an individual suffering from addiction is open and honest with you it is important to react constructively. It is very difficult for an individual suffering from addiction to admit that they need help. Their bravery should be rewarded with support and empathy, you may be the first person that they have confided in, and you may have to power to help the individual seek professional help. Every individual deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.

Learning about addiction can be a great way to increase your understanding and it can enable you to help a loved one suffering from addiction in the right way. Misunderstandings can often contribute to the stigma surrounding addiction. It is important to correct falsities about addiction when you see or hear them. Educating others about addiction, challenging myths, and stereotypes, passing on facts and spreading more positive thinking are all ways in which you can help to break down the stigma surrounding addiction. Placing a focus on the positives and recovery can help to break down negative attitudes associated with addiction.

It is important to be aware of both your own attitudes and behaviour and the attitudes and behaviour of others. When choosing our own words, we must keep in mind that what we say can have an unexpected effect on others. Judgemental behaviour can stem from the individual’s upbringing but do not be afraid to confront an individual that you believe is engaging in a behaviour that may make an individual feel stigmatised.

Just because an individual is suffering from addiction does not mean that they are not still your friend or family. Don’t forget to extend that invite or keep in touch, everyone needs a friend, and nobody needs a friend more than an individual in the recovery process.


  • Accept yourself – recognising and accepting that you are suffering from addiction is the first step in the recovery process. You are human and it is ok not to be ok. It does not matter what anybody else thinks, you must remember that things will get better.
  • Learning about addiction – understanding the science behind addiction can help you to understand how you can overcome addiction and can eradicate feelings of self-blame.
  • Talk – communicating with friends and family about your emotions and experiences can help your loved ones to understand what you are going through, and it can allow them to support you in the best way possible.
  • Investing in yourself – it is important to put yourself first, establish a good healthy routine and build your self confidence back up, surrounding yourself with positive people while ignoring negative thoughts and opinions of others.


Tabor Group provides residential & community-based addiction treatment programmes to men and woman over 18 years of age, who are struggling with addiction to alcohol, drugs, and gambling. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, get help today. We can help you recover in a healthy, friendly environment and beat your addiction. Do not hesitate to contact one of our counsellors today for information by calling +353 (21) 488 7710 for Cork or +353 (1) 639 2962 for Dublin, or alternatively you can email us at info@taborgroup.ie. We can help you.