Thank you, Massachusetts, for a powerful, and empowering, public health message!
May all of us step up to the challenge of changing our language -- and actions.
The Stigma of Opioid Addiction
from Massachusetts department of Health and Human Services
It’s a huge public health threat – addiction to powerful opioid painkillers. But you can help by changing the way you think about, talk about and treat people with addiction. Words like “junkie,” “addict” and “druggie” can hurt and stand in the way of recovery. There are perceptions that addiction is a personal choice (when in fact it’s a disease), that addiction is a sign of human weakness, or a lack of morals or willpower. While the initial decision to take drugs may be voluntary, neurological changes to the brain restrict a person’s self-control. The disease hinders the ability to resist impulses to take drugs despite harmful consequences.
A stigma is a mark of disgrace that sets a person or a group apart. Stigmas aimed at people with substance use disorders come from many sources including personal shame and disgust at one’s own appearance, behavior and feelings of being unworthy of help, negative labels from friends or family, negative attitudes from healthcare providers, the media, law enforcement, places of work and government agencies.
We are all affected by the current epidemic of opioid addiction. Many of us know someone who struggles with addiction, or who is in treatment. What can we do?
• We can take a stand against stigma.
• We can support treatment opportunities.
• We can encourage people in recovery.
We can talk about addiction with our friends and family.
Each of us can commit to not using hurtful or damaging words about those who struggle with addiction.