CCARE Anti-stigma Campaign
Stigma can affect everyone - members and their families, treatment professionals, and community activists. Stigma refers to negative opinions of a person or group based on having certain characteristics. Stigma may result in a person feeling shame or despair and experiencing discrimination.
Self-stigma is a type of stigma someone feels about themselves. Self-stigma can prevent a person from seeking the support of family, peers, and professionals. If you have an SUD, you may not realize that you are already feeling and experiencing the impact of self-stigma. The most dangerous outcome of stigma is that you may begin to believe some of the shaming statements other people have said. You may believe that you are unmotivated to change or that you are weak and should be able to stop on your own. You may feel that you don’t deserve effective treatment. You may also view yourself as hopeless or helpless because you cannot stop on your own. Someone experiencing stigma about substance use may be less likely to feel comfortable seeking treatment.
To help limit the harmful affect of self-stigma, remember:
- People do not ask for an SUD and no one can predict that they will get an SUD. About 20% of people who use alcohol and other substances will develop a SUD, though the risk does increase with potent substances like heroin and methamphetamine.
- Although no one wants to develop a chronic disease or struggle with excessive weight, many Americans struggle to improve their diet or increase healthy activities. Just like losing weight or managing diabetes is possible, recovery from an SUD is possible, too.
Everyone must work to lessen stigma. If you or a family member have an SUD, there are ways to overcome self-stigma:
- Show compassion for those with a substance use disorder.
- Choose empowerment over shame.
- Let others know when they’re expressing negative attitudes toward people.
- Don’t keep feelings of shame or self-stigma to yourself - let others know how you feel.
- Stop referring to yourself as a “drug addict,” “dope-fiend,” or alcoholic. Instead, refer to yourself as a person who has an opioid use disorder (OUD), alcohol use disorder (AUD), or substance use disorder (SUD). If you keep calling yourself these things, you might start to believe that change can’t happen.
- Ask family members and friends to also refer to you as a person who has an OUD, AUD, or SUD instead of other negative labels. People are more likely to recover with positive social support and less likely to recover when there is criticism or shame.
- If you want to stop using substances, you are motivated! Motivation is needed, but talk therapy and treatment with life-saving medications for OUD and AUD is also needed to stop using substances.
- Medications, such as methadone, buprenorphine, or naltrexone are life-saving treatments and the most effective intervention for people with an OUD. You deserve these life-saving medications.
- You deserve medications to treat AUD like acamprosate, disulfiram, or naltrexone. Medications are used to treat all chronic health conditions, including substance use.
- Recovery is a marathon, not a sprint. Very few people will achieve abstinence after one treatment episode. Most will need many months or years to achieve sustainable abstinence.
- Look for 12-step or mutual support groups, including support groups that welcome people with an OUD who are taking medications.
Community Care is committed to reducing stigma for substance use disorders. If you need treatment for substance use, there is help. Please reach out to Community Care Member Services.
One of the ways to impact stigma is to learn about people with SUD. They are regular people like you and me. Story Library | Life Unites Us
Community Care is participating in a project to slow the growth of SUD among our members and improve outcomes. As part of the project, we have two activities:
- Efforts to reduce stigma about SUD: Our anti-stigma campaign, CCARE (Community Care's Anti-stigma Resources and Education), aims to further reduce the impact of stigma and increase recovery-seeking behaviors for those with an SUD.
- Information about medication-assisted treatment (MAT): we have developed toolkits to offer information about opioid use disorders (OUD) and alcohol use disorders (AUD).
Information for Family Members
Substance use disorder may affect family members in different ways. Family support during treatment can have a positive impact. Talking about your family’s own strengths, concerns, and needs is also an important part of supporting your family member in recovery. While risk for substance use in children of those with substance use disorder is higher, there are opportunities to prevent and treat an SUD with the help of a health care professional.
For a family’s perspective of supporting a loved one’s substance use disorder, visit: Breaking Down the Stigma of Addiction: A Witness’s Testimony Through Art
Substance Use Resources
- Addiction Should Be Treated, Not Penalized
- Ending the Stigma of Addiction
- Genetics and Epigenetics of Addiction
- Life Unites Us: Stories to End Stigma
- Substance Use and SUDs in LGBTQ* Populations
- Substance Use Treatment for Older Adults
- Understanding Drug Use and Addiction
- Videos: Reducing Stigma Surrounding Substance Use Disorders