Ashamed About a Drug Problem? Don’t Be.

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Shame caution sign in red and white against stormy sky

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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.

Find Help Near You

Use the SAMHSA Treatment Locator to find substance use or other mental health services in your area. If you are in an emergency situation, this toll-free, 24-hour hotline can help you get through this difficult time: call 1-800-273-TALK, or visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. We also have step by step guides on what to do to help yourself, a friend or a family member.

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