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Reduce the Stigma

Updated: Jul 30, 2019

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that in 2014, 21.5 Americans age 12 and older had a substance use disorder.. With staggering numbers such as these, it is likely that you or someone you know has struggled with the disease of addiction. It’s time that we all did our part to reduce the stigma associated with addiction and recovery so that more people can get the life-saving help they deserve. Below are five simple steps we can all take to change the way we look at and talk about addiction:

1.) Understand the facts by learning about drug dependency and how it works. Addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease marked by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. It is NOT a moral failing and people who are struggling to stay sober are not inherently “less than.” Instead, they are regular, decent people who are fighting an extraordinary, cruel disease.

2.) Use first person language by describing someone as having a substance use disorder rather than narrowly defining them by their drug use. (i.e., “she has a substance use disorder” as opposed to “addict,” “alcoholic,” or the even more demeaning “junkie,” “crackhead,” etc.)

3.) Relapse is a part of the disease and not a sign of failure. Everyone’s recovery journey looks different and there is no one-cure-all for addiction. Recognize that relapse is a sign that something in someone’s treatment program needs changed and/or strengthened. We must never lose hope that recovery is possible!

4.) Listen without judgment and offer compassionate support. We all deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, especially when vulnerable and struggling with the disease of addiction.

5.) Consider sharing your personal experiences of addiction and recovery as a message of resilience, strength, and hope. You never know how your own story may positively impact someone else!

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