Reduce the Stigma
The prejudice people feel about those with opioid use disorder (OUD), including those in active addiction and in recovery is called stigma. Those with OUD often feel shame and disgrace when they encounter stigma.
Stigma often grows from the belief that substance use is a choice or a moral failing. People may say individuals with OUD are lazy and not trying hard enough to quit. This mindset ignores how these drugs alter the human brain, which makes it a chronic or lifelong disease. It also overlooks that many people have successful long-term recovery.
Through Stop Stigma: End Opioid Bias in Gaston County, we’re sharing stories of individuals whose lives have been impacted by OUD. Through their videos and writings you will see how opioid stigma:
Discourages people from admitting they have an opioid use disorder
Discourages people from seeking drug treatment
Demeans the use of low-dose opioids in Medically Assisted Therapy (MAT), as trading one addiction for another, where it is the gold standard for treatment when combined with talk therapy
Builds resistance to harm-reduction – which includes needle exchange programs that prevent the spread of Hepatitis C, HIV, and severe infections – as well as the use of naloxone, a safe drug used to reverse opioid overdoses
Makes those without active addiction less willing to help those with OUD needs at work and church
Sustains work policies that do not help employees secure treatment
Can compromise the care clinicians provide to people with OUD
Harms individuals with OUD by eroding their self-worth, which often leads them to avoid others
Makes it difficult for people in recovery to find employment
Flows over to those in recovery who need pain management and pain relief
DO YOUR PART
Help reduce stigma by:
Using "people-first" language, as described here
Reaching out to encourage and support those who may need help, whether it be the person experiencing OUD personally, or their loved ones
Educating ourselves and others on opioids, OUD, and the science behind addiction
Speaking up when you see someone being treated unfairly due to their addiction
Listening to those who have experienced OUD firsthand and respecting their life experience and insights
Taking a harm reduction approach to meeting people where they are, to help minimize risk
The Facts of Stigma
people don't believe a substance use disorder is a chronic medical illness, similar to diabetes, arthritis, or heart disease
of those with an opioid use disorder expressed feeling ashamed of themselves
think treatment works, but nearly half believe that medications used for treating opioid use disorder is substituting one drug for another
wouldn't want to move next door to someone currently using substances or have them as a friend
If we want addiction destigmatized, we need a language that's unified.
The words we use matter. Caution needs to be taken, especially when the disorders concerned are heavily stigmatized as substance use disorders are.