Overcoming the Stigma of Alcoholism and Alcohol Addiction

Overcoming the stigma of alcoholism-2

Table of Contents

This devastating and chronic condition impacts people with alcoholism and their families. It is a recurrent, chronic illness that impairs a person’s health. Alcoholism has a lot of stigmas, even given its current significance.


Alcohol Addiction and Stigma Associated with Alcoholism

The Latin and Greek words that give rise to the term “stigma” indicate “a burn, or a mark inflicted on another person to signify disgrace.” Today, stigma refers to negative beliefs or judgments about an individual or a group based on characteristics.


People who are addicted to alcohol face discrimination and negative judgment from society and sometimes even in healthcare facilities. Due to stigma, very few people seek help from treatment centers. Therefore, it is important to address these issues to get rid of the barriers and seek alcohol treatment.


What causes Stigma on Alcohol Use Disorder as per the NIAAA?

The feeling of Guilt Within the Individual

Alcohol use disorders can make those who are struggling feel ashamed of their habits. Some people with alcohol use disorders prefer to maintain their appearance while concealing their drinking issues. They consider it a personal failing, which lowers their self-worth.


Identity Issue

When someone realizes they have an alcohol problem and need help, it can be tough for them. They might start to see themselves negatively based on what society thinks about people with alcohol addiction. They can still feel judged even if they know they’re not how it is generally stereotyped.


Lack of Knowledge about Treatment

Some people might only know about treatment options that don’t seem right for them. These could include staying at a treatment center, which might affect work or family, or taking a medication (disulfiram) that makes drinking alcohol unpleasant. They might prefer options that give them more freedom and control, but they might not know about them.


How De-addiction Clinics Contribute to Patient’s Sense of Stigma?

Stigma affects even experienced healthcare providers, leading to biases such as shorter visit times, less engagement, and the use of labeling language like “alcoholic” instead of “individual with Alcohol Use Disorder.”


Misconceptions contributing to stigma include the belief that patients with AUD have chosen their condition, can quit if they try hard enough, or have character flaws. Some healthcare professionals may avoid discussing AUD with patients to avoid stigmatizing them further.

Overcoming the Stigma of Alcoholism and Alcohol Addiction

How Understanding AUD and Its Treatment Can Reduce Stigma

AUD and Alcohol Addiction is not a Choice

Like other diseases, like diabetes, nobody chooses to get this disease or work towards being affected by it. It is a medical condition caused by the deposition of passed-on genes or other environmental conditions. Similarly, AUD is also a medical situation that has to be handled carefully with proper treatment for smart recovery.


Alcoholism or addiction to alcohol is not something that happens by choice of the individuals like other diseases. Though the initial consumption may be due to one’s own choice, the situations that develop in the brain due to various chemical reactions are not voluntary. Excessive alcohol use will pull the individual into a cycle of deep addiction.


Vulnerability to AUD Involves Genetic and Environmental Factors

The individual does not choose to get a disease. So, some other factors accelerate the medical condition. These are the genetic factors passed on from their parents. The deposition of the genes from the parents will stay idle inside the brain and create a tendency to approach alcohol when the environmental factors favor it.


These genes in the brain make the individual more prone to taste it and understand the effects of the consumption of alcohol. Though the amount of alcohol consumed in the initial stages is of very low quantity, due to genetics, the individual will move towards alcohol misuse.


Evidence-based Alcohol Treatment is Available

The treatment based on the evidence is crucial for an effective treatment of the addicted individual. This will also help in reducing the stigma prevailing in society regarding the disorder. These treatment models are found effective and have reduced the period required for recovery. This tailor-made treatment approach is designed according to the various characteristics of the individual, including genetics. For treatment purposes, this information is extracted using genetic counseling.


How can Health Specialists help debunk the Myth and Stigma associated with AUD?

The specialist can play an important role in developing awareness among the people and getting rid of the myths and beliefs regarding alcohol dependence. This will allow the coming generations to not fall into the traps of myths and get addicted to alcohol consumption.


Techniques to Lessen the Shame Associated with Alcohol Use Disorder Patients
  • Through the development of an educational awareness program, people can learn about the repercussions of alcohol addiction and how it manifests in themselves. This program will make people understand how to prevent alcohol use disorder and break free from the deep cycle of addiction.
  • A psychologist can show empathy to people with addiction, thereby creating confidence in the individuals undergoing treatment. The morale of the individuals will increase by helping them in a smart recovery.
  • For motivation, real-time examples of individuals who have successfully recovered from addiction can be explained to them. This will create a belief in them that this chronic condition is recoverable. It will also help in getting more support from the addicted individuals toward the treatment.
  • The specialists, with real-time experience, can unravel the clouds of the myth revolving around alcoholism. They can provide the necessary care and a nonjudgmental approach for effective treatment.
Strategies to be Implemented During Treatment for Alcohol
  • Addressing patients’ alcohol use in the healthcare setting and incorporating alcohol screening, assessment, and follow-ups.
  • Educating the care team that AUD is a severe medical condition and should not use stigmatizing language and behavior. When communicating with colleagues, use medically accurate terms.
  • Consider offering FDA-approved AUD medications in primary care settings as an initial treatment option. Many patients prefer this approach, perceiving it as less stigmatizing and more accessible. Primary care providers find prescribing these medications straightforward and view it as a promising entry point to treatment. These medications are non-addictive and can be prescribed similarly to other common medical treatments.
  • Collaborating with therapists for behavioral care and addiction specialists for prescribing support can enhance primary care providers’ comfort in managing AUD patients. Healthcare practices that facilitate such collaborations empower clinicians and improve patient care outcomes.
  • Utilize the NIAAA Alcohol Treatment Navigator portal for healthcare professionals to discover nearby providers, including specialist addiction physicians and therapists. These professionals offer outpatient choices tailored for patients with mild to moderate AUD, such as flexible care and telehealth options, which maintain autonomy, privacy, and patient routines.


The term alcoholism is historically used to describe the continuous drinking pattern of an individual. However, the term AUD is used to describe a chronic condition medically.

The effects of alcohol vary in different individuals. Some may experience short-term effects, and others may experience long-term effects based on the pattern of use. Some common effects are mental unrest, aggression, and a strong desire for alcohol. Diseases related to the liver and the intestine are also commonly seen among addicted individuals.

The common symptoms are prolonged drinking and inability to reduce consumption.

The effects of alcohol can be seen in various aspects of your life. Avoidance from society, poor performance in a job or school, broken relationships, stress, and unrest are common situations that an addicted individual will go through in his daily life.

Contributing Editor

Troy Wakelin – Co-Founder and Contributing Editor SoberCentre.com

Recent Posts
Inspirational Videos
Sign up for our Newsletter

Sign Up For Our Quarterly Newsletter