What can be done to address stigma in addictions?

Persons with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) experience significant stigma which can be a barrier to a wide range of opportunities and rights. Stigma manifests as social rejection, labeling, stereotyping and discrimination, even in the absence of any negative consequences associated with substance use and can lead to denial of employment or housing or being treated in a discriminatory fashion, even by healthcare professionals. Another manifestation of stigma is internalized stigma, where persons with SUD internalize the society’s perception of them leading to feelings of low self-worth, hopelessness and self-defeating behaviors including not engaging in treatment.

Stigma can be addressed at the personal level as well as the societal level by advocating for pro-recovery messages, policies and programs. There is a need to educate other health care professionals to equip them with the basic knowledge and experience to recognize and address SUD in a non-stigmatized way, based on an informed appreciation for the complexity of the disease and the recovery process. Further, the use of non-stigmatizing language associated with SUD (such as substance use disorder, recovery etc.) instead of morally charged terms (such as addiction, abuse, alcoholism, clean etc.) is important to reduce stigma.

Access “Addiction” at: https://www.hbo.com/documentaries/addiction

More information can be found at:
https://www.asam.org/resources/publications/magazine/read/article/2015/12/15/patients-with-a-substance-use-disorder-need-treatment—not-stigma
http://drugpolicy.org/resource/stigma-and-people-who-use-drugs

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