What is Stigma?
Stigma is defined as a set of negative beliefs that a group or society holds about a group of people or people who demonstrate a particular behavior. Stigma is a major cause of discrimination and exclusion and it contributes to the abuse of human rights. When a person experiences stigma they are seen as less than because of their real or perceived health status. Stigma is rarely based on facts but rather on assumptions, preconceptions, and generalizations; therefore, its negative impact can be prevented or lessened through education.
Stigma can result in prejudice, avoidance, rejection, and discrimination against people who have a socially undesirable trait or engage in culturally marginalized behaviors, such as drug use (Link, 2001).
References: World Health Organization and Link (2001)
“…words can be powerful when used to inform, clarify, encourage, support, enlighten, and unify. On the other hand, stigmatizing words often discourage, isolate, misinform, shame, and embarrass…”
Excerpt from “Substance Use Disorders: A Guide to the Use of Language” published by CSAT and SAMHSA
Language and Stigma – examples
Learn More about Stigma
A guide from the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Department of Behavioral Health Care, Developmental Disabilities and Healthcare, and Department of Health.
Language Matters to the American Medical Association
The words we use to describe someone can influence attitudes, beliefs, and behavior toward them, including the care decisions physicians make.
Stigma, Drugs, and Policy: How Language Drives Change
Webinar Description: Language matters when it comes to treating substance use disorders (SUD). Stigma has been proven to have a negative impact on health outcomes, not only leading many individuals with SUD to not seek treatment, but also influencing how health professionals treat their patients. Using non-stigmatizing, person-centered, and recovery-oriented language can help providers facilitate engagement in treatment for individuals with SUD. This webinar will explore the ever-evolving landscape of language around SUD and discuss strategies for healthcare providers and allied health professionals to address stigma within your practice.
Patients with Addiction Need Treatment – Not Stigma
Written by AMA Task Force to Reduce Opioid Abuse Junkie. Stoner. Crackhead. We’ve all heard the terms, used to describe those individuals who struggle with drug addiction. These words are dismissive and disdainful; they reflect a moral judgment that is a relic of a bygone era when our understanding of addiction was limited, when many thought that addiction was some sort of moral failing and should be a source of shame. We need to change the national discussion. Put simply, individuals with substance use disorders are our patients who need treatment.