Stigma is one of the biggest barriers to seeking and receiving treatment for people with substance use disorders. Stigma often takes the form of biased attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. Understanding problematic perspectives and language use is essential for addressing stigma. CCSA brings together knowledge and collaborates with a diverse group of industry professionals, government departments and educators to help end stigma.
CCSA is committed to sharing evidence on and ending stigma within our community of influence. Our organization was once called the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Allies and those with lived and living experience expressed concern that our corporate name was stigmatizing and a barrier for those accessing our materials. We heard this concern and took action. In 2017, we changed our name to the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.
Ending stigma has become a priority for us. We champion ending stigmatizing language, behaviours and attitudes during our National Addictions Awareness Week, in our formal reports and through day-long workshops we host across Canada.
What Is Stigma?
Stigma is seeing something through negative stereotypes. It can lead to harmful actions towards individuals, such as discriminatory attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. In the field of substance use, stigma is a significant barrier for those who use substances recreationally, have a substance use disorder or have used substances in the past. Family and friends of people who use substances can also experience stigma.
Stigma is most apparent in stigmatizing language, which relies heavily on stereotypes to shame and belittle individuals. The words we use to describe social, criminal and health circumstances reflect our attitudes. By changing our words, we can encourage more compassion.
Overcoming Stigma Through Language: A Primer lays a foundation to understand, identify and change the stigmatizing language that surrounds people who use substances, their support networks and service providers in the community. We proudly developed this primer in partnership with the Community Addictions Peer Support Association.
We all have a role to play in ending stigma. Join us. Pledge today that #StigmaEndsWithMe.