What is Stigma?

Alcohol and drug use related disorders are among the most stigmatized conditions in the world. The stigmatization of these disorders can have harmful effects on those suffering and even lessen the efficacy of treatments. The Office of Student Affairs wanted to speak on this issue and give students more information on how they can help to end the stigma associated with it.

Addiction is a public health issue and should be treated as such. Addiction and Substance Use Disorder does not discriminate and can affect anyone, from any walk of life. The negative outcomes associated with it disproportionately affects marginalized/priority populations due to health inequities and social determinants of health.

Why does stigma matter?

This isn’t just about political correctness or being polite, this has real-life impacts and consequences. Stigmatization comes in many forms and can have extremely harmful effects. Stigma can discourage people from seeking help and affect the quality of treatment they receive or even if they receive treatment at all.

How can it get better?

One of the simplest ways someone can help combat stigma for this issue is by changing their language. Use person-first language i.e. “person with Substance Use Disorder”, “person who uses drugs/alcohol”. Don’t use harmful language i.e. “junkie”, “drug abuser”, “addict”. When talking about drug use or dependence say, “drug use/dependence” and not “drug abuse”. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction and the Community Addictions Peer Support Association published a helpful and informative Primer on Overcoming Stigma Through Language. Also, remember that language is constantly evolving and what’s considered acceptable/helpful language now could change at some point in the future.

Being an ally and advocating for persons with Substance Use Disorder and other addictions issues, isn’t just about changing your language. So, what does it look like? There are many ways but here are a few examples. When you hear someone using harmful language, (if you feel safe in the situation) say something to them and do so respectfully and compassionately. Speak up for persons affected by this, but never speak over them or for them. Too many other people have taken away their voice, so amplify their voices however you can. Don’t forget that you will make mistakes and that’s okay. Learn from those mistakes and be willing to change them.

#StigmaEndsAtCU is a student-led campaign (in conjunction with the Canadian Centre on Substance use and Addiction) with a goal to reduce stigma around addiction and substance use. Follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to help spread the message and be a part of this important social justice movement.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021 in
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