Stigma around addiction in ND

North Dakota released report stating changed stigma of addiction

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Stigma surrounding addiction has changed in North Dakota, as more people are viewing it as a health condition. On Oct. 25, North Dakota released the results addressing addiction sigma in the state. The results found that 74% of North Dakota residents agree that addiction is a health condition and those suffering should seek treatment. 

The research report stated that people struggling with addiction are often delayed in seeking treatment when negative stigma surrounds it. The three major domains of stigma include stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination, accroding to the North Dakota report. Organizations try to break this stigma, by educating people about those affected with addiction. 

Shatterproof is a company that works to end the addiction crisis in America and change the stigma surrounding addiction. The organization seeks to revolutionize medical treatment of Substance Use Disorder and educate others. Shatterproof treats addiction like the chronic disease it is and offering evidence-based resources for prevention, treatment and recovery.

Substance use disorder and addiction have influenced hundreds of thousands lives in the United States. “In 2018, more than 175,000 deaths in the U.S. were related to alcohol and other drugs — the third largest cause of death in the nation,” according to Shatterproof. The world has also seen an increase in substance use cases since the pandemic which resulted in isolation for millions. According to the American Psychological Association, “The pandemic brought an 18% increase nationwide in overdoses compared with those same months in 2019.”

Amy Werremeyer works as a psychiatric pharmacist at North Dakota State University, who specializes in mental illness and substance use disorders. “We know that the more the public has a stigma about substance use disorder, the more people who have a substance use disorder will stigmatize themselves,” said Werremyer. This affects those who have substance use disorder because they feel more shame and judgement on them, which could prevent them from seeking help. 

Werremeyer agreed that the stigma has seemed to improve in the last few years. “I think there’s a lot more attention being paid to it and a lot more education being provided,” she said. The changed stigma has resulted in more conversations about substance use disorder and mental illness. In the recent years, those who may be struggling are feeling more comfortable coming forward and seeking help. 

“For a long time people have viewed substance use disorder as a moral failing or a matter of lack of willpower,” Werremeyer stated, “We know through a lot of research that that is absolutely not true.” Substance use disorder is a brain disorder which causes a lack of control involving a substance, which could include legal or illegal drugs, alcohol, or nicotine. 

According to the addiction center, “Almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, yet only 10% of them receive treatment.” By reducing the stigma, others hope that more people affected with substance use disorder will seek treatment. 

According to the North Dakota report, 46% of respondents state that they support laws that protect people with addiction from criminal charges for drug crimes if they seek medical help. Werremeyer stated that the best way to change the stigma is to seek education about substance use disorder. With others not knowing the dangers and reality of substance use disorder, “We run the risk of people struggling with these disorders and not getting the treatment they need, or not thinking they are worthy of being treated,” she said.  

“My hope would be that people would recognize substance use disorder as a disorder,” said Werremeyer. 

For more information for substance use education click here

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