People who currently use, or have used drugs and alcohol problematically, are some of the most heavily stigmatised people in the world. Stigma is expressed and felt differently by each individual person and family but it affects people from all walks of life.
Stigma leads to judgments and behaviours that limit opportunities for people to get better and build a happy life. Stigma leads to discrimination. We believe, as a society, we should no longer tolerate stigma, whoever we are and whatever our life experiences we can all commit to ending stigma and discrimination.
Self-stigma, societal stigma and structural stigma all feed into and reinforce each other to create a social norm that excludes us from the resources we need to get better like healthcare, friends, a job and a home.
Stigma has a human and economic cost to people directly and indirectly affected by substance addiction. It is therefore both a personal and societal problem. Everyone has a role to play in breaking this cycle of Stigma. Stigma limits access to health, housing, employment and positive relationships. We believe everyone should have a fair chance at a happy and healthy life. Everyone should be able to access the resources to achieve their aims in life. Everyone has the human right to health
Ending stigma will save lives, trauma and money.
How you can get involved and help fight stigma
There are lots of ways of getting involved. It is ALL of our responsibilities to do our bit to challenge the stigma that people who use substances face
- Listen and learn from the experiences of people with lived experience
- Call out stigma when you hear it
- Think about using your voice, if you have a story that you would like to share that
- Develop your own anti-stigma strategy and share it with us
- Help amplify the anti-stigma message
below are some of the projects and resources we have been working on, over the coming years we will be adding to these as we develop new ways to fight stigma.
People with lived experience of addiction and recovery are experts in knowing how people in addiction and recovery think feel and hurt, it is they who truly know how great the need is to end stigma and discrimination. By amplifying the voices of people with lived experience we encourage visibility, increase representation and create awareness.
How can you help amplify lived experience voices?
Recovery Friendly Language
We developed the language guide in partnership with FAVOR and in consultation with people with lived and living experiences of using drugs and alcohol dependently.
It is aimed at people who work with people who use drugs and alcohol, people who work in the media, professionals and the general public. The guide is intended to offer recommendations on using language to empower people in active addiction and recovery and to reinforce the impact of person-centred language on challenging stigma.
Most people with living or lived experience of using substances have their own use of language that is meaningful to them the guide is by no means intended to influence how people in recovery or active addiction chose to self-identify or suggest what language they should use to describe their own experiences when talking to people either inside or outside of their communities.
This guide is an ongoing piece of work, as the use of language evolves over time to reflect our changing lives, circumstances, experiences, and culture the guide will be updated to reflect those shifts.
An anti-stigma card game designed to encourage conversations, working on 3 levels
- Perception - this level leads us to explore our own perceptions and bias that can lead to stereotypes and prejudice against people in addiction and recovery.
- Learning - offering insight into the hopes and dreams of people with lived experience, myth-busting and some accurate facts.
- Reflection - the final level encourages reflection on what was learnt during the game, how feelings have changed and how to take that forwards
How to play
Find a willing partner, the game can be played with one or more people, take it in turns to draw a card and ask each other questions, work your way through the 3 levels and enjoy :)
The Recovery Street Film Festival
The Recovery Street Film Festival focuses on filmmakers who have lived experience of recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, whether it is themselves or a loved one.
The aim is to demonstrate through the medium of film the diverse issues that are faced by people overcoming addiction and how those around them can be affected.
The festival empowers people affected by addiction by giving them a voice and providing a platform for them to tell their own stories of the ‘ups and downs of recovery. The films hold a wealth of experience and offer a unique insight into the lives of people affected by drugs and alcohol.
I have made some choices in the past that were not good for me and I continued to make these choices despite knowing that I needed to change my life.…
Research on the understanding of stigma
Ten years ago there was a concerted effort by the UK Drug Policy Commission to look at the impact of stigma, In the intervening years, organisations have taken their own approach. Published in July 2021 the Dame Carol Black Review of drugs part two: prevention, treatment, and recovery have once again put the focus on stigma as a significant obstruction to people who need help.
We commissioned a research paper together with Pulsar's “Care to Share”which looks at Social Media conversations about addiction, recovery and stigma. This paper, which informed our Anti Stigma Strategy illustrates the power of the language we use to illuminate our underlying negative preconceptions about addiction and recovery.
A starting point for your own stigma research
It can be difficult to navigate the complex world of research on stigma. A good starting point is the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) seminar, which provides a detailed overview of health stigma and discrimination. It advocates a cross-cutting research approach. The seminar is well worth viewing in its entirety.
As an illustration of starting with an original resource and following cited research, here is a presentation by Dr Harry Sumnall, Professor of Substance Use at the Public Health Institute at Liverpool John Moores University. The presentation has a number of references that you may follow according to your area of interest
Here are some examples based on keywords with results:
- Families and stigma
- Stigma and stories of recovery
- Digital storytelling
- Activism and advocacy
This should give you a range of tools to begin your own research on understanding stigma. To conclude, here is an insightful talk about imagining the impact of treatment without stigma
We are always looking for new ideas and innovative ways to challenge stigma, if you have an idea or a project that you would like to collaborate on then we would love to hear from you firstname.lastname@example.org