Substance use disorders (SUD) are often treated as a moral and criminal issue, rather than a health concern. Such stigma towards SUD 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 or self-stigma, where persons with SUD internalize society’s perception of them leading to feelings of low self-worth, hopelessness and self-defeating behaviors including not engaging in treatment.
Interventions that target self-stigma as well as social stigma and structural stigma have been studied and found to be effective at reducing stigma in SUD. A range of interventions may be able to influence stigma-related outcomes positively in the context of SUD including group-based Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), vocational counseling, communication strategies that promote positive stories and through motivational interviewing approaches with particular target groups (e.g. landlords or employers). Surprisingly, the research does not support the idea that educational fact-sheets will achieve meaningful improvements in stigmatizing attitudes among the general public.
A major limitation of studies of interventions to reduce stigma is the lack of longitudinal data, therefore, the medium- to long-term effects of these interventions remain largely unknown and should be studied in future research designs.
Access “The effectiveness of interventions for reducing stigma related to substance use disorders: a systematic review” at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3272222/
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