The National Night of Conversation — it is Time to Break the Stigma of Addiction

The National Night of Conversation — it is Time to Break the Stigma of Addiction

It is time to break the stigma of addiction in order to save lives affected by drug and alcohol abuse. See how these organisations are taking a giant step in the right direction.

Popular daytime television host Dr Oz recently teamed up with the organisations Drugs Over Dinner, and Facing Addiction to present the United States with The National Night of Conversation — an initiative to break the stigma of addiction. According to Dr Oz, one of the main problems we face when it comes to the addiction epidemic, is talking about it. The first National Night of Conversation (NNOC) held this past November 19th, encouraged families to engage in drug addiction prevention and awareness by having open and honest conversations about addiction.

The NNOC could not have taken place at a better time, as there has recently been growing support and attention placed on the addiction epidemic with presidential candidates beginning to address the issue as part of their campaigns. In preparation for the event, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy appeared on The Dr Oz Show to discuss the recently commissioned and first ever Surgeon General’s report on addiction, which will compile existing research, best treatment practices and further define the epidemic.

According to Vivek Murthy, in order to break the stigma of addiction, “We have to stop seeing addiction as a moral failing and see it for what it really is, which is a chronic illness we must treat with compassion and urgency. Part of the intention of this report is to change how we talk about addiction.”

Dr Oz agrees and goes on to urge that by participating in the NNOC we can reduce the shame surrounding addiction. For the NNOC, Dr Oz asked people to post a photo to social media of an empty dinner plate symbolising that for this event it is the conversation that is important, not the food. He says that talking about addiction is the first step we can take to saving lives.

In 2013, drug overdose was the leading preventable cause of death and killed more people than car accidents. In the United States, approximately 9.4% of the population suffer from drug and alcohol abuse or dependence. Despite these staggering statistics, to date there have been no large scale movements to address and treat addiction, or celebrate those in recovery — like there have been for other major health problems such as breast cancer and heart disease.

To help facilitate conversations, The Dr Oz Show and partner organisations worked together to provide a downloadable Parental Discussion Guide which was developed with input and advice from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), The National Council on Behavioural Health, and HealthCorps. For more detailed and personalised help, Drugs Over Dinner provides a step by step plan to starting and having a conversation about addiction.

Drugs Over Dinner and Facing Addiction: Two Organisations Working to Break the Stigma

Drugs Over Dinner is an on-going online project that facilitates dialogue about addiction between loved ones. Its main objective is to break the stigma of addiction by encouraging families to have open and compassionate conversations about drugs and addiction over dinner. The online platform offers a toolkit to plan, host, and moderate the discussion. It also provides an extensive library of helpful resources for people interested in learning more about addiction and recovery.

Facing Addiction is another non-profit organisation dedicated to breaking the stigma and fighting addiction by providing a voice to the millions of people affected by addiction, increasing access to effective treatment and showcasing proof of long-term addiction recovery. This October, the organisation led the UNITE to Face Addiction rally.  The rally drew tens of thousands of people in an unprecedented event to break the stigma and silence surrounding addiction and give a voice to those in recovery.

The rally led the way for other national initiatives such as the NNOC, and was the catalyst for changing the conversation about addiction from that of problems to solutions. It featured concert performances by Sheryl Crow, Joe Walsh, and Steven Tyler, plus an address by US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy promising to help the country face addiction and treat it as the major health epidemic it is.

Is Addiction a Disease?

Like Surgeon General Vivek Murthy advocates, it is time to break the stigma of addiction by recognising it as the chronic illness that it is rather than as a moral failing — and time to rally for the same support, awareness, and celebration of recovery that other major illnesses have received.

There is now significant evidence that addiction is in fact a mid-brain disease, which is often present before a person ever takes their first drink or drug. Complex environmental, social, and biological factors all play a role in whether someone will develop alcoholism and drug abuse disorders or other addictions.

Unfortunately, addiction stigma is still perpetuated by the ongoing false belief that addiction is caused by a person’s poor choices and lack of moral integrity, the proliferation of addiction stereotypes by the media, and a reluctance to discuss the issue openly and compassionately. This stigma keeps many people from seeking the help they need out of fear of being labelled an addict and being looked down upon by society.

How you can Help Break the Stigma of Addiction?

Talking about addiction with your friends and loved ones is the first step you can take to break the stigma associated with the disease. If you did not get a chance to participate in the NNOC, visit drugsoverdinner.org today to get information about how to begin these discussions. Addiction affects a large majority of people in some way, whether through personal experience or the suffering of a friend, family member, or acquaintance — and sharing the facts through open and honest conversations can help take away unnecessary shame and suffering.

As more people open up to talk honestly about addiction and recovery, hopefully more people will feel safe enough to seek the help they need. The millions of people in recovery can attest that it is possible to overcome addiction. By engaging in compassionate and open conversations we are not only working to break the stigma of addiction, but also working to save lives.