What is stigma?
Stigma toward people is the rejection, avoidance or fear of those they perceive as being “different.” When a person experiences stigma, they are seen as “less than” because of their real or perceived health status. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion and it contributes to the abuse of human rights.
Stigma affects all of us – and nearly everyone has felt stigmatized or has stigmatized others at some point in their lives. In a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study, the general public was more likely to have negative attitudes toward those dealing with drug addiction than those who were dealing with mental illness.
Unfortunately, people who experience stigma regarding their drug use are less likely to seek treatment, and this results in economic, social, and medical costs.
“Opioid use disorder is a chronic disease, not a moral failing or lack of willpower.”
To mitigate the devastating effects of opioid misuse, we must:
- Acknowledge that opioid use disorder is a chronic disease, not a moral failing or lack of willpower.
- Ensure treatment is available for all who need it.
- Recognize that addiction is treatable and recovery is possible.
- Admit that stigma can shatter hopes of recovery and social inclusion, leaving the person feeling devastated and isolated.
People report perceived stigma from healthcare providers, loved ones, and the general public. No matter the situation, no one likes to feel judged or devalued. In order to encourage people to reach out for help and get on the path to recovery, it is important to reduce the stigma surrounding their situation. Educational programs and modeling of non-stigmatizing behavior can help people provide nonjudgmental, empathetic support.
Ending the stigma toward those dealing with drug addiction saves and improves lives.
How you can help
Learn how to reduce the stigma associated with opioid use disorder by following these tips:
Share your story
Help stop stigma and discrimination toward people and families living with substance use disorders. Inspire and encourage others, by sharing your story of hope and recovery. Telling your story may encourage others to share their experiences and may end the silence that contributes to isolation and shame. Submit your story for our “Personal Story” section by completing the information below. Only your first name will appear with your story.
View our campaign materials below and share the message with friends, family, colleagues and your community to end the stigma.
Please ensure that posters are displayed thoughtfully and responsibly so as not to be in breach of local laws and regulations.
Narcotics Anonymous will help you stop using drugs and find a new way to live. Find a meeting here, and live drug free. One day at a time. Keep coming back.
The Nar-Anon Family Groups is primarily for those who know or have known a feeling of desperation concerning the addiction problem of someone very near to you. We have traveled that unhappy road too, and found the answer with serenity and peace of mind.
A free information and referral service for the community. Just call 2-1-1 (or 916-498-1000) or 7-1-1 if you are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and ask to be connected to 2-1-1. An InfoLine referral specialist will take your call and choose from over 2,400 nonprofit and public programs to recommend ones best suited to help. Calls are always confidential and interpreters are available free of charge.
This resource examines the role of language in perpetuating substance use disorder stigma, followed by tips for assessing when and how we may be using stigmatizing language, and steps for ensuring that the language we use and messages we deliver are positive, productive, and inclusive.
International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on 31 August each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.