Not so long ago, people generally held a lot of judgment and negativity for those who use drugs. Anyone associated with drug use could face ostracization or worse. Yet, social attitudes toward drug users have certainly changed in recent years. People have become more educated about addiction and substance abuse, although some stigma persists despite these advances.
There is often an assumption that those struggling with chemical dependence or addiction made the mistake of experimenting with recreational drugs and may have had involvement in other criminal activity. These assumptions can lead to people dismissing the needs or complaints of those facing prosecution for drug-related issues.
Despite the assumption that people may have intentionally engaged in criminal activity, the true origins of many cases of addiction are more common and less intentional than people realize. Particularly in cases related to pain medication or heroin, drug abuse may have started with a health concern.
Addiction often starts with medical treatment
In the last decade, there has been a significant increase in opioid abuse and addiction. There is definitely a degree of overlap between those abusing prescription medications, like fentanyl, and those who eventually start using more dangerous illicit drugs, like heroin.
Many people abusing unregulated fentanyl or taking heroin started out with a prescription from a doctor. Perhaps they underwent surgery, or maybe they hurt their neck in a car crash. Doctors often recommend prescription medication as a way to manage someone’s pain. Pain management can be crucial to someone’s long-term recovery and also their quality of life.
Unfortunately, the drugs that help people manage pain can be both physically and mentally addictive. Doctors who worry about regulatory authorities scrutinizing their prescribing practices might abruptly stop someone’s prescription without helping them reduce their dosage.
Those suddenly denied refills of medication that they have become dependent on often seek out the same medication on the unregulated market. Eventually, they may turn to street drugs, like heroin, because it may be easier or cheaper to access in certain situations. The connection between prescription medication and addiction has become so well-known that there is now far more scrutiny paid to those caught with medication they should not have.
Acknowledging the stigma associated with chemical dependence might help people find the courage to defend against their drug charges or ask for drug court proceedings to address their underlying substance abuse disorder.