New research this Addiction Awareness Week 2023 reports shame and judgement as key barriers for speaking out about addiction. “Stigma and perceptions are holding people back from seeking recovery” says Forward Trust
Almost Half of Brits Impacted by Addiction, Yet Stigma Continues to Silence The Nation
Today (30th October), new research by The Forward Trust reveals that 45% of UK adults aged 18-75 have either directly experienced addiction themselves with a dependency to alcohol, drugs, medication, gambling or sex themselves, or know someone close to them that has. Despite this being equivalent to 22 million UK adults aged 18-75, the stigma that surrounds the condition is stopping or making it difficult for half of those experiencing their own or other people’s addictions from speaking out, with negative judgement (46%) and shame (39%) ruled as top concerns.
The research commissioned on the eve of Addiction Awareness Week 2023, found that over half (53%) of those experiencing addiction or dependency, either directly or through someone close they know, feel unable to talk freely about it.
Of those with a family member currently experiencing or who have experienced addiction, almost half (49%) of those surveyed felt it was difficult or found themselves unable to talk about the issue. By comparison, when it comes to speaking about their own addiction, 38% find it difficult or cannot talk to other people. This points to a deep-rooted sense of shame when in the throes of addiction, at a time when talking is the first important step in the road to recovery.
Taking Action on Addiction aims to bring addiction into the light in an attempt to break down the stigma and provide stories of hope to encourage those suffering from addiction to seek help. The campaign centers on Addiction Awareness Week which runs from 28th Oct – 4th Nov. This year’s theme, Everybody Knows Somebody will see the launch of a new film during a national Let’s Talk About Addiction event on the evening of the 2nd November, joining people together to help start conversations about addiction.
“Talking removes stigma” says Forward Trust
The research is part of the Taking Action on Addiction campaign, launched in 2021 by the Forward Trust with the overall goal to increase access to treatment, support and care to those impacted by addiction, including family and friends.
Mike Trace (Forward Trust Chief Executive) commented:
“Addiction is widespread, yet as a nation we still feel uncomfortable to talk openly about it. This is a big barrier to people getting the help that they need. At a time when addictions are rising in scale and complexity we have to end the shame that’s holding people back from talking and asking for help.
Addiction feeds off isolation, which is why Addiction Awareness Week is incredibly important. Addiction is a serious mental health condition. Yet whilst wider mental health is a talked about topic, there is still a job to do with talking about addiction. The impact of this silence ripples across our healthcare system, across individual and family lives. No other serious health condition would suffer such levels of shame.”
On the opportunities to change Mike Trace when on to say:
“Whilst the findings are bleak, the research also showed that almost half of those suffering with addiction reported they were in recovery and a third are working towards it. Recovery is possible, with the right support and everyone should have the opportunity to access it.”
The importance of talking, and it being the first step to recovery, is highlighted in a powerful film in which people who have been impacted by addiction, either themselves or in their families, explore the stigma that still surrounds it.
 515 UK adults aged 16-75 who experienced addiction or know someone close who has experienced addiction said they find it fairly difficult or cannot talk at all about any of the six listed experiences: their addiction; their recovery from addiction; the addiction their family member(s) are currently experiencing or have done in the past; the addiction their friend(s) are currently experiencing or have done in the past; the addiction their work colleagues(s)/former colleague(s) are currently experiencing or have done in the past; addiction in general.