The Negative Stigma of Alcoholism
According to a 2010 study, more than sixty percent of those who believe they have a drinking problem shy away from any form of treatment due to the negative stigma of being an alcoholic. About two-thirds of problem drinkers in the study believed that alcohol dependence carried a negative stereotype. It was found to be especially true among women and minorities. Many times this comes from the common misconception that alcoholics are homeless people who have lost everything and are sleeping under a bridge. According to experts in the field, the stigma of alcoholism is the biggest barrier of treatment for alcoholics. Most alcoholics do not want to admit they have a problem, for fear they may be stereotyped or looked down upon. Even with many alcoholics leading a complete and full life in recovery, the stigma remains that one may lose their job, family or housing if the public knew of their issues with alcohol. The negative alcoholic stigma has come to the attention of many experts and recovering individuals in recent years, causing great concern. For information about the genetic influences of alcoholism please visit Genetic Influences on Alcohol Drinking and Alcoholism written by an expert at Indiana University.
The Reality of Alcoholism
Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, is defined by the American Medical Association as both a psychiatric and medical disease. Since the 1950’s the AMA has recognized alcoholism as a disease, and in 1991 it was recognized it as a psychiatric illness. Alcoholism is categorized as a treatable disease, meaning there is hope for those who suffer from it. Many who have found the path to recovery move on to live normal, if not prosperous, lives. People of different genders, sexual orientation, social class, race, and interests are in recovery. Upon entering treatment, a twelve-step group or group therapy, one will surely notice that their idea of an alcoholic was far from the truth. In the words of the Alcoholics Anonymous book, “We are people who normally would not mix. But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness, and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful.”
Changing the Stigma of Alcoholism
Many medical professionals and experts on alcoholism believe that the stigma surrounding alcohol addiction is the largest obstacle for those who wish to quit drinking and seek treatment. With two-thirds of studied alcoholics claiming they did not want to be labeled and carry the stigma, it is obviously a large barrier. Some groups work to break down the stigma, such as Faces and Voices of Recovery, an organization that advocates addiction education. They educate in various settings to show the scientific facts of alcoholism. One major lesson that may prove helpful to alcoholics is that alcoholism is a disease. Many who struggle with alcohol addiction blame themselves for their problems, and consider themselves weak. The reality is that it is a gripping disease, and the self-hatred is unnecessary and extremely harmful. There are several organizations similar to Faces and Voices of Recovery, both at national and local levels. The concept backing their works is that if the public had more knowledge regarding the reality of addiction and alcoholism, they would not be so quick to judge an addict. According to Faces and Voices of Recovery, the most important facts that need to be spread are the disease nature of alcoholism, the psychiatric illness aspects of it, and the fact people cannot quit on their own. It is not an issue of weak willpower as many think. Those struggling with alcoholism need help, and if they are willing to get it, they can lead a completely normal life.