How Can We Strike Out Stigma?

Aspenti Health’s summer campaign, “Strike Out Stigma”, is focused on stigma reduction surrounding addiction.

What is stigma? Stigma is ” a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” In the sense of addiction, it can prevent those affected from getting the help they need due to the judgment they may face from those around them. Addiction is a disease, and should be treated as such in society.

Stigma surrounding addiction causes powerful and damaging negative self-esteems to the person in need of help contributing to higher rates of mental health concerns, incarceration, and even death.

The 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 21.5 million Americans age 12 and older had a substance use disorder in the previous year; however, sadly only 2.5 million received the specialized treatment they needed. While it’s not scientifically proven that these people did not get treatment because of stigma, the fact is that most insurances, housing facilities, and employment policies don’t offer help or support to those with drug addiction. 

Recovery Brands asked a group in treatment for substance use addiction to say some words on what they wished society would understand about their condition (fig 1.).

Fig. 1

Stigma hurts those being affected by isolating them. It can cause mental health ailments, self-harm, and an unwillingness to seek help or recovery treatment. Of the individuals interviewed for the piece above, most cited stigma coming from their loved ones, healthcare providers, and general society.

How can you help someone you know that has substance use disorder? Offer them compassion, avoid using hurtful language that labels them, and see them for who they really are, not just their addiction. If the person feels as though you aren’t judging them, they’re more likely to open up to you which is the first step in seeking out help. Please stay tuned for more blogs throughout this summer on stigma reduction and stats surrounding stigma against those with addiction disorder.


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