Stigma: How it affects the substance use disorder patient

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The stigma surrounding individuals who have substance use disorders is a pervasive phenomenon that has had detrimental effects on treatment outcomes, health care providers, treatments, research, policies, and society as a whole (Kelly JF, Dow SJ, Westerhoff C, J Drug Issues_40:805-818, Kelly JF, Westerhoff, Int J Drug Policy_21:202-207, 2010). Stigma can be cultivated by various sources, but this article specifically focuses on the impact words have. Individuals influence each other through dynamic language processes. Language, which we use to communicate, represents shared values, history, beliefs, and customs. Moreover, language can be used to promote stigma or decrease it [Snodgrass S: The Power of Words: Changing the Language of Addiction, 2920]. Language usage for addiction medical care is dated in comparison to other standards. Research and organizations are recognizing that substance use treatment, policies, and language need to evolve to aid this crisis and those affected by this disease. Language sustains the stigma surrounding substance use. The stigmatized language used to describe substance use behaviors, individuals with substance use disorders, and substance use treatment can create barriers in essential areas, such as health care, employment, insurance policies, and laws for individuals who are trying to heal and make meaningful contributions to society. There are many ways to contribute to a more accepting society, but it starts with bottom-up processes like language choices in day-to-day conversations. An effort must be made to normalize destigmatized language when referring to substance use and individuals with substance use disorders.




Zwick, J., Appleseth, H., & Arndt, S. (2020, July 27). Stigma: How it affects the substance use disorder patient. Substance Abuse: Treatment, Prevention, and Policy. BioMed Central Ltd.

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