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Drugs & Health Blog

Ashamed About a Drug Problem? Don’t Be.

This blog post is archived and is no longer being updated. For the latest content, please visit the main Drugs & Health Blog page.

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The NIDA Blog Team

A problem with drugs or alcohol can lead to other problems in a person’s life, such as problems with health, relationships, work, and school. Another problem for this list is shame.

More than feeling guilty

When a person feels shame, they feel guilty, embarrassed, and small. They don’t just feel bad because they did something wrong; they feel like who they are is wrong. Shame hurts.

Shame can lead a person to hate themselves, feel hopeless or worthless, or even have self-destructive thoughts. In some ways, it can make a drug or alcohol problem even worse—especially if it makes the person too embarrassed to get help.

Shame and secrets

We were reminded of this when we heard about the death of Nelsan Ellis, the talented actor from the TV series “True Blood” and, more recently, the series “Elementary.”

Nelsan didn’t reveal to the public that he had a problem with drugs and alcohol. After he died in July from complications while he was trying to withdraw from an alcohol use disorder, his family publicly revealed that he “was ashamed of his addiction.” They said that Nelsan “would want his life to serve as a cautionary tale…to help others.”

The truth is, addiction is a disease. A person with an addiction can’t “just stop” taking drugs. A drug or alcohol problem isn’t something to be ashamed about—it’s something to get help for, period.

One place to start is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK). You don’t have to be thinking about suicide to call the Lifeline—anyone with a problem can call. It’s free, private, and confidential.

Watch a video about how anyone can become addicted to drugs.

Comments posted to the Drugs & Health Blog are from the general public and may contain inaccurate information. They do not represent the views of NIDA or any other federal government entity.


I had an addiction to once heroin, no longer use , but now addicted to suboxone . How can I recover from and no longer need suboxone . Mu tolerance is at two a day now . I been medicating for over 6 years now because of getting to a small 4th and then needed intestional surgeries, reconnection, and now back to weaning ? Its hard for my body and esp muscles to conform back to normal without this medication . Help .

Recovering from an addiction to any drug can be difficult. Recovering from addiction to suboxone may require the assistance of a medical professional. We encourage to talk with your doctor about your options for pain management and quitting suboxone. There are other medication-assisted treatment options for heroin besides suboxone.

Great post! Helpful!
I always just thought I was using drugs for fun and didn't need them, could stop whenever I wanted. I've realized tonight that I've got it very wrong. I admit I have a problem but I'm embarrassed about the thought of telling anyone else, can I handle this by myself do you think?

Talking with a doctor or other trusted health care professional for advice is an important first step. These professionals are trained to offer guidance without judgement about quitting drugs or point you to someone else who can help. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. This free, confidential helpline is open 24/7/365, and trained professionals can give you advice for all kinds of rough situations, even if you’re not suicidal.

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