“Stigma is a degrading and debasing attitude of the society that discredits a person or a group because of an attribute. … Stigma destroys a person’s dignity; marginalizes affected individuals; violates basic human rights; markedly diminishes the chances of a stigmatized person of achieving full potential; and seriously hampers pursuit of happiness and contentment.”

2015 International Conference on Stigma, Howard University, Washington, DC

  • Stigma is a perceptual bias that conflates people who use substances with immorality.
  • It is conveyed in tone of voice, body language, attitude, and words.
  • It becomes internalized by those seeking help.

People with addiction face many different types of stigma:

They face stigma from within

They may blame themselves or feel hopeless.

They may face stigma even within the recovery community

This is particularly true for people on medication treatments for their illness. So while we would never shame someone with diabetes for being on insulin, people with addiction who are on lifesaving medications are often shamed.

They can face stigma from the people who are supposed to be treating them

With all the examples we talked about in the medical system and even just the inaccurate belief among some clinicians that treatment is ineffective or that people don’t get better.

They face huge stigma from the general public

E.g. that addiction is a choice not a disease.