Reducing Stigma Around Addiction Recovery

One person taking notes in a notebook while another one speaks

Everyone will need help with something in life and, hopefully, will find that support in a way that empowers and uplifts their journey. The same is true on the path to recovery. There is no shame in seeking help; with that in mind, it’s important to remember that sometimes words or everyday terms can be barriers for those needing treatment and support. 

Eradicating the stigma around addiction and substance use disorder, or SUD, is a crucial mission. People dealing with addiction often find themselves facing harsh judgment and shame, which create barriers that push them away from seeking the support and treatment they need. Even the words “addiction” or “addict” can be problematic depending on the context. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) strongly emphasizes the power of using language that doesn’t stigmatize when we talk about addiction. When we choose our words thoughtfully, it can help open doors for families needing support. Respectful language helps set the stage for an environment where individuals feel more comfortable seeking help. This approach empowers them to seek assistance without the fear of being condemned.

Words Matter

Dr. Kelly Dunn, Executive Director of Clinical Treatment at the National Center for Wellness and Recovery, said that helping loved ones is a balancing act of understanding and accountability.

 “Often people do not realize you can provide empathy and dignity while also holding them accountable. They are not mutually exclusive,” she said. “I challenge people to think about responding to a loved one’s SUD like they would another disease, such as heart disease or cancer. For every way you would treat them differently, usually, there is a stigma underlying that difference.”

Leave the Judgments Behind

Creating a non-judgmental environment allows people to feel respected and supported regardless of their struggles, and it can also mean they are more likely to engage in treatment and adopt healthier behaviors. Creating awareness, understanding and empathy can help dismantle barriers to treatment, promote well-being and contribute to the evolution of a more empathetic and supportive community.

No Shame 

Remember, there’s no shame in seeking help. This path will have its ups and downs and may even include relapses, but no one should be ashamed of trying to find a healthy approach to recovery. 

Contact the NCWR Addiction Recovery Clinic at OSU at 918-561-1890 to schedule an appointment. In case of a medical emergency, please call 911. For immediate and confidential emotional support, please call 988 to reach the National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

Additional information and Resources 

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