Addiction & Overdose

A Roadmap to Reduce Stigma on Opioid Addiction

November 7, 2019

This is the second of a two-part blog series. Read part 1, Guiding Principles for Addressing the Stigma on Opioid Addiction.

Governments and private organizations interested in addressing the stigma on opioid addiction should consider both “initial” and “comprehensive” activities. “Initial” activities include some smaller scale, potentially low-hanging fruit activities that could get the ball rolling in terms of stigma reduction in the short-term. “Comprehensive” activities include larger-scale, longer-term activities that could build off initial work.  

Initial Activities

Take a language pledge: Pledge to avoid the use of stigmatizing language related to addiction (see examples below). Start with your own agency or organization and then reach out to others to join. Examples: 

Pull together stigma reduction resources: Create a repository of web resources on the Office of Drug Control Policy (or another organization’s) website. Examples of existing materials include the language pledge above, previously created webinars, existing stigma reduction toolkits, etc. For example: 

Host a journalist training. Convene a small training for journalists on how to cover opioid addiction in a non-stigmatizing manner. The training should highlight the 2017 Associated Press Stylebook guidance on language about addiction and could include local journalism students.  

Host a stigma reduction “boot camp” for key stakeholders interested in stigma reduction: Convene a half-day (or 2-3 hour) workshop for partners interested in leading stigma reduction activities, with speakers who have experience in addressing stigma. 

Conduct a stigma reduction webinar: Follow the same idea as the boot camp above, but one hour and web-based. The webinar could be recorded so that it is available long-term. 

Comprehensive Activities

Develop a strategic plan for statewide stigma reduction: Come together with public and private leaders to develop a strategic plan. A potential process could include a 1-2 day in-person convening following by the formation of working groups responsible for drafting specific components of the plan. Ideally, this planning process should build on some early successes that can be highlighted (e.g., “initial” activities above) and be undertaken when there are dedicated resources allocated to implementation of the strategic plan. 

Create a stigma reduction “speakers bureau”: Form a cadre of experts to train healthcare providers, journalists, the general public, other audiences on stigma reduction; advertise this “speakers bureau” as a resource for organizations across the state. 

Launch a stigma reduction communication campaign(s): Develop and disseminate a stigma reduction campaign(s) targeting the general public, healthcare providers, or other key audiences. Campaign messages can be disseminated through the media (public service spots on television/radio), billboards, bus/taxi banners, posters in bus stations. It’s critical that these messages follow evidence, summarized by these guiding principles. It’s always a good idea to test messages ahead of time and evaluate whether the campaign is working. 

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