Stigma, defined as “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality or person” remains the biggest barrier to people coming forward and admitting they have a problem with alcohol or drugs. The stigma of addiction is largely the result of inaccurate portrayals in the media of “addicts” being bad people of moral failing. While some behavioral symptoms of Substance Use Disorder (SUD) such as impulsive behavior, aggression or poor judgment can lead to some of these misconceptions, this stigma perpetuates and exacerbates the private shame associated with drug addiction.
The dynamic between the personal shame of people with SUD and public stigma has resulted in many barriers to people getting the treatment they need in Canada. The truth however, is that with the appropriate clinical intervention, based in science and advancements in the field of Addiction Medicine, many of the stigmatized behaviors associated with drug and alcohol abuse are alleviated.
Because alcohol and drug abuse are often considered a private matter and stigma against addiction remains prevalent, only 1 in 10 Canadians receive the help they need to address this disease. The same stigma also leads to underreporting, under diagnosing by medical professionals and ultimately to under-treating and under-funding by government. Indeed, when you compare the response by society to illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease, the stigma against SUD becomes alarmingly clear. Addiction, especially in the wake of the Opiate Crisis is one of Canada’s most serious public health concerns and insufficient resources are dedicated to addressing the problem.
Despite huge scientific advances in understanding addiction as a disease, SUD remains marginalized by the mainstream healthcare system, starting with a lack of education and awareness on the topic in medical school and inter-professional health care education.
At Edgewood, we are committed to challenging the stigma and negative stereotypes associated with drug and alcohol use. As professionals responsible for helping our clients reconcile their private shame which is reinforced by negative public stereotypes, we make it our responsibility to challenge stigma everywhere. Anti-stigma work benefits people in Recovery and encourages more people in the depths of despair and active addiction to reach out for help. On a societal level, providing education on the possibility, brilliance and beauty of Recovery can help shape public policy on addiction and hopefully increase investment in treatment.
Through our active and vibrant Alumni Associations, EHN- Canada celebrates, reveres and pays tribute to the thousands of people in long term Recovery that we have had the profound and sincere privilege of helping. EHN-Canada also promotes community spaces across the country where people in Recovery have “play grounds” and “playmates.” Connection is a vital part of our anti-stigma advocacy and we see our awesome Alumni as a beacon of hope to others
EHN has made it our mission to demonstrate that many, many, many people do recover from addiction. Through an amplified message of HOPE, we can show that SUD while a chronic disease can be successfully managed for life with the right treatment and supports. EHN-Canada creates venues for advocating pro-recovery messages, policies and programs such as our sponsorship of the Recovery Capital Conference of Canada scheduled for September 2018