How Do Media Depictions of Rehab Exacerbate or Reduce Stigma?

Alcoholism and drug addiction can present overwhelming challenges. Families and friendships get ripped to shreds and personal lives are devastated. It is unlikely that anyone not encamped on the side of a mountain, devoid of all news and social interaction, hasn’t heard or read something about the drug problems sweeping across the nation.

There has long been a negative stigma associated with substance use disorders in general. For decades, alcoholism was stuffed in the proverbial social closet. We knew it happened, we just avoided talking about it when it hit too close to home.

Drug abuse has experienced an even more impactful stigma. When you infuse the illegal aspect into the drug addiction discussion, it adds a criminal stigma to the equation. The media have played their part in this whole ordeal. Let’s talk about how media depictions of rehabs have exacerbated or reduced the stigma around addiction.

Perceived Immorality

The abuse of drugs and alcohol often generate depressing storylines. Media, especially televised, wants to attract consumers. They are well aware how doom and gloom scenarios can sell airtime. For this reason, many reports are slanted to overemphasis the negative.

While recovery would present a more favorable opinion about the problem, that aspect of addiction is overlooked frequently. The media narrative focuses entirely on condemnation and how problematic addiction is in society.

Without purposely exacerbating the drug problem, media coverage clearly portrays addicts and alcoholics with degenerate connotations. Unfortunately, even those who have been broken by their disease, and seek help, can be erroneously viewed with a perceived immorality.

This is wrong. An addict or alcoholic goes to treatment, not because they are a bad person, but because they are a sick person who needs help to get well. The media don’t always reveal this reality, at least without much enthusiasm.

Feeding the Beast

There are other types of media coverage, focused attention the complete opposite of the vilification of drug users and addicts. For decades, the media have tilted stories about worldly successful people and their drug histories.

There has been a sense of glamour attached to the use of drugs, especially some of the more hardcore examples on the addiction menu. Even full-blown alcoholism has in some respects been glamorized. If it looks good on television, it can’t be all bad.

These completely opposite viewpoints about drug and alcohol abuse certainly send a mixed message. On one hand, those who suffer from an addiction are reluctant to seek treatment because of the stigma.

Conversely, the media portrays drug use and excessive drinking as a mark of success. These two ideas blatantly contradict one another. A more helpful approach would be to present the reality. People are dying.

However, treatment programs and rehabs are saving people’s lives as well. A redirection of media focus towards the hope of recovery could dramatically alter the public perception of drug abuse and alcoholism, and the treatment efforts that are making people whole again.

Focus on the Merits of Recovery

There are heartfelt stories of recovery. However, they still take a backseat for prevalence by a media too overwhelmingly driven by sensationalism. To reverse the exacerbating effects of the media’s demonization of addiction, a change in mindset must occur.

On rare occasions, media reports do expose success stories involving rehab-based recovery. Nevertheless, these types of news reports are far too uncommon. Media must bear a level of responsibility for the negative stigma surrounding individuals who enter rehab.

The only way to reverse these inaccurate stigmas is to acknowledge fervently the successful changes rehabs and treatment facilities can and are making in an addict’s and alcoholic’s lives.

Media coverage of the positive side of recovery needs to stop being of second-tier importance. There will be stories about the death and destruction addiction causes. However, a more proportional balance between doom and gloom and hope must become the future trend of media.

Frequently, recovery is reported as some Herculean life reformation by a small minority. However, research studies for alcohol and drug addictions show a different story. A vast number of addictions end up in some level of recovery.

An unending cycle of addiction, institutionalization, or death, does not make up the majority. This more normal side of addiction as it relates to truth in recovery numbers would be a refreshing change, especially for the recovery community.

Rehabs and treatment facilities bring hope into lives where all hope seemed lost. By directing more focus towards these success stories, the media could be a champion for recovery, not a voice that further exacerbates a terrible affliction.

If you feel you have a problem with drugs or alcohol, avoid being influenced by any perception offered by the mainstream media. You are not a villain, and the reality of drug addiction and alcoholism is not glamorous.

Despite many of the pronounced doom and gloom scenarios, there is hope. That hope can be found in a treatment rehab. If you or a loved one needs this help, make the call today at 844-639-8371. One truth in all the media reporting is that tomorrow just may be too late.

Scroll to Top