Substance Use-Related Stigma Essay

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Imagine a world where individuals who struggle daily with substance use disorders are met with empathy, access to treatment options, and support. Such a reality is not only possible but essential if we are wanting to overcome the challenges caused by substance use. To achieve this, we must confront the stigma that continues to wreak havoc on our communities and displays harmful narratives.
In our society today, the issue of substance use and abuse continues to affects individuals, families, and communities across our nation. In 2021, more than 46.3 million people in the United States met the DSM-5 criteria for substance abuse disorder (SAMHSA, 2023). This is a problem that demands attention and solutions. However, an often-overlooked barrier …show more content…

Historically, substance use has been seen as a moral failure rather than a complex health issues. The American Psychological Association highlights that substance use-related stigma leads to harmful stereotypes, thus contributing to the public’s negativity and undermining attitude towards their recovery (American Psychological Association, n.d.).
Stigmas manifest in various aspects of society, including our healthcare systems, where individuals feel fearful of the judgment and discrimination they are met with (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016). Additionally, stigma related to substance use influences the public perception, shaping the way society views and interacts with those struggling. A study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy dives deep into how media representation contributes to the stigmas that circulate substance-use (Lloyd et al., …show more content…

To begin, educational initiatives need to be implemented to challenge misconceptions and bring empathy towards individuals that are struggling with substance disorders. Research has shown that education and awareness programs help to reduce stigmatizing attitudes and leads to an increase in support for treatment and recovery (Livingston et al., 2012). Second, expanding access to evidence-based treatment options such as medication-assisted treatments greatly improves treatment retention and reduces relapse rates among those struggling with substance abuse disorders (Luoma et al., 2007). A report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights that Narcan distribution programs are critical, but stigma creates reluctance in adopting these life-saving interventions (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Third, advocation for policy reform will prioritize treatment over punishment and improve public health outcomes. Reports have shown that decriminalization and diversion programs lead to increased access to treatment options and reduces incarceration rates (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019). Lastly, launching targeted media campaigns to reduce stigma and challenge harmful stereotypes is essential. A meta-analysis has shown that anti-stigma campaigns effectively decrease the stigmatizing attitudes geared towards individuals with

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