Eliminating stigma surrounding addiction is an urgent priority to help individuals with substance use disorders (SUDs) access treatment and feel supported in their journey to recovery. At the same time, stigma of substance use behaviors is a social tool to protect health. For example, the stigmatization of behaviors including impaired driving and smoking tobacco in public has contributed to declines in use, major public health achievements. Repeated use of addictive substances is unhealthy and contributes to the development of SUDs. Those behaviors can and should be stigmatized, but stigma must not carry over to individuals suffering from SUDs. How can stigma be used while promoting and celebrating recovery? The public discussion of addiction must be reshaped beyond the dichotomy of stigma as good or bad.
This session will explore refashioning public messaging about addiction to discourage addictive behavior while preserving the dignity of addicted people and encourage prevention, treatment, and recovery. This includes a compassionate approach to the pain and self-destruction caused by addiction; recognition of SUD as a brain disease; respect for the addicted individuals whether or not they are using or in a state of recovery. There must not be stigma with obtaining treatment and recovery — a state of abstinence, wellness, and citizenship — which must be celebrated. Reducing stigma importantly allows people in recovery to be frontline leaders in creating recovery-ready communities. Family-based, organization-based, and community-based contingencies for individuals with SUDs can create opportunities to force individuals to enter treatment and find paths to recovery.