HomeAddictionAbuseHow Telemedicine is Reducing Substance Abuse Treatment Stigma

How Telemedicine is Reducing Substance Abuse Treatment Stigma

Written By: Harris House

Category: Abuse, Abuse, Blog

Medical doctor in a telemedicine session.

Telemedicine started during pandemic shutdowns has taken on a life of its own now that things are opening back up in some places.

Many people who have substance use disorders experience social stigma caused by negative perceptions and misconceptions about substance abuse and rehabilitation. The social stigma may cause them to avoid treatment because they don’t want to be seen in a rehab center or to look their primary care physician in the eyes and tell them that they need help with their substance use.

There is also significant stigma around treatment for substance abuse because of the high degree of interpersonal conflicts that can occur between attendees. This can lead to negative perceptions about the programs themselves and about the people that attend them. Attendees may be reluctant because they might see someone they know and have to explain why they are getting treatment.

Telemedicine Can Have Benefits for Substance Abuse Treatment

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unexpected development in medical technology that can greatly reduce the stigma associated with substance abuse treatment, according to at least one study. Telemedicine rose to the forefront as a viable way to provide many medical services and treatments, including substance abuse treatment, months ago when it was first perceived to be unsafe to meet in person as coronavirus infections were becoming more widespread.

What started out as a way to provide substance abuse treatment virtually when there was no other option is now positioned to become a viable permanent option that has many benefits for clients:

  • No transportation worries if the clinic is not on a bus route
  • Various practitioners available on a single telemedicine call rather than traveling to different locations
  • Reduced or nonexistent child-care costs
  • Access to top-notch practitioners who might not practice in your geographical area
  • No interpersonal drama between attendees

Another important aspect of telemedicine is the removal of the face-to-face embarrassment that comes with attending treatment for substance abuse. Clients don’t have to worry about who they might run into, and the tension of telling a counselor or group leader about your condition face-to-face is also reduced.

Medical doctor using a laptop for a telemedicine visit.

Telemedicine can be more convenient for some clients and can reduce the need to miss work, pay for transportation, or find child care.

Telemedicine is Here to Stay

A layer of reservation that often occurs in face-to-face meetings can be stripped away with telemedicine, making people more comfortable with sharing their very real struggles and being more honest with their provider than they might be in person. There’s a sense of anonymity that can be very freeing when talking to a telemedicine provider.

The bottom line regarding telehealth substance abuse treatment is that it can in some circumstances be more effective than in-person treatment. While no one type of treatment will be right for everyone, exploring telemedicine for substance abuse treatment may be worthwhile if traditional formats haven’t worked for you because of stigma surrounding treatment.

Harris House provides inpatient and outpatient treatment for substance use disorder, including telemedicine options when appropriate.  Call us to learn about admissions and what we can do to help you change your life for the better.

Coronavirus Update
Harris House takes the coronavirus threat very seriously and has taken many precautions to keep our clients and our community safe. Read how we are handling treatment during this critical time.