Stigmas Around Addiction Treatment Breaking Down, But More Work to Be Done, Expert Says

Sep 18, 2019

The past president of the Illinois Association of Addiction Professionals spoke Wednesday in Pekin for a National Recovery Month networking luncheon. 

Mark Sanders has worked in recovery treatment for more than 30 years. He says he watched the stigma of addictions grow with the War on Drugs in the 1980s and 1990s. 

“The centers of addictions treatment shifted from treatment centers to the criminal justice system, and frankly the child welfare system, because there were women addicted to cocaine who lost custody of their children because of the stigma of cocaine addiction," he said. 

He said many professionals felt this approach wasn’t working and instead looked to reduce the stigma around seeking help for drug abuse. 

He says the response to the opioid epidemic has been notably different than the crack cocaine epidemic of the ‘90s, but there’s still more work to be done. 

“My hope is that we do such a good job of getting the message out that people can and do recover, that one day I’ll walk into a Walgreen’s and they'll ask me 'would you like to donate to addictions recovery,'" Sanders said. "And that’s when I know we’ll be doing a really good job community-wide in reducing the stigmas of addiction.” 

The Wednesday event hosted by the Gateway Foundation aimed at helping people in recovery meet. Sanders said people usually do drugs in a community, and building a new community to help start and maintain addiction recovery is invaluable.