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Lots of people have an image of what “an addict” looks like — usually a young man, usually underweight, often homeless or struggling to stay off the streets. But when these stereotypes interfere with people getting help, they can become seriously harmful.

In reality, many people who struggle with addiction have jobs, families, and functional social lives. From the outside, it’s nearly impossible to tell that something is wrong — often, even their own families can’t tell that they have a problem with substance misuse.

Consider some of the following statistics: According to a 2007 study by the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism, approximately 19.5% of people who suffer from alcoholism are “functional.” Furthermore, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that among full-time workers, illicit drug use is around 8.6% — up to 19.1% in certain industries.

When people have serious misconceptions about who might be struggling with addiction — or worse, when they have the impression that everyone with a substance misuse problem is weak, flawed, or dangerous — treatment rates suffer. Some don’t seek treatment because they think no one will believe they have a “real” problem.

This stigma against drug and alcohol users only causes further harm. It negatively impacts harm reduction, self-esteem and mental health, and the willingness to attend treatment and access to healthcare.

At A Way Out we provide a comprehensive, judgement-free space for anyone, no matter their circumstances, to find the help they need and stop their harmful habits.

Substance misuse is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s never too late to ask for help — when you do, we’ll be here

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