Substance abuse disorder does not discriminate. It affects people of all colors and walks of life. The good news is: there is help for addiction and everyone has the opportunity to heal. But the road to recovery is filled with another major obstacle called “stigma.”

Studies show that when we shame and blame a person with an addiction, it discourages that person from accepting their disease and asking for help.


Will you help us turn stigmatization into victory?


Will you help us achieve our mission?

  • To inspire hope and healing by increasing our community’s understanding of addiction

  • To reduce the stigma that discourages people from seeking help

  • To encourage honest dialogues about substance abuse disorders by giving our community the words to start the conversation.


What does stigma look, sound and feel like?



“I have no patience for substance abuse. Why can’t these people just stop?”



“I’m embarrassed to talk about her drinking with friends and family.”



“Our company will not hire a former heroin addict.”


Addiction is a disease; stigma is a social symptom

Substance abuse disorder is not the mark of a lesser human being. But stigmatization tells us to look down on a person with addiction. It also tells them to think less of themselves.

FACT: Addiction is a complex but treatable disease that affects brain function and behavior. Left untreated, substance abuse disorder is chronic, progressive and deadly. Shaming, blaming and rejection are symptoms of misunderstanding this medical disorder.

Stigma is both spoken and unspoken

Another common stigma-charged idea is that people who develop addictions are weak and therefore deserve the trouble they get into. This belief is unspoken but powerful. Thinking like this not only perpetuates the problem, it also releases people from the responsibility of becoming part of the solution.

To the addicted person, this type of stigmatization feels like rejection, whether it comes from a friend, family member, institution, or society as a whole.


I need someone to encourage me to get help.


Who is affected by stigma? Everyone

The economic cost from drugs and alcohol (direct and indirect) is $578 billion. Despite the cost to society, some people feel that any investment in rehabilitation programs is wasted. They see treatment programs as an unnecessary burden to our economy. They need to hear the facts.

FACT: If everyone struggling with addiction received the treatment they needed, the US economy would save $368 billion in costs attributed to addiction-related healthcare, crime and social services.

Furthermore, a qualitative study with addicted persons points to the direct effects of public stigmatization on their behavior. In some cases, a pattern of alcohol consumption and drug use is directly motivated by the need to forget, erase, or avoid the shame of addiction itself.


Reject the pain
of shaming and discover the power of sharing


PROBLEM: Several studies identify stigma as a significant barrier to accessing health care and recovery treatments.

SOLUTION: Studies also show that an honest and compassionate approach to substance abuse disorders inspires hope, recovery and healing for those who suffer.

How stigma gets in the way of recovery

Stigma causes alienation that perpetuates the addiction itself

Stigma becomes a significant barrier for accessing health care and treatment services

Some health care providers may add to the negativity, feeling that people with substance abuse issues are overusing system resources

Stigma creates guilt and shame that prevents teens and families from seeking professional help

Stigma negatively affects career opportunities, re-entering the workforce, getting a new apartment, and starting a new life

Stigma can arise when a person in recovery discusses their rehabilitation in public to friends and family who are not accepting of the disease

To learn more, check out our substance abuse resource guide. See link below.


What should you say to someone you love?
People in recovery gave us these suggestions:



“I needed someone to listen without judging me.”



“I needed someone to honestly tell me how I was hurting myself and loved ones…and to set firm boundaries regarding my behavior.”



“I needed someone to guide me on how to get help — and encourage me to get help.”


Take the “Rise Above Stigma”quiz


What are the myths about stigma and the facts about substance abuse recovery? Please take our survey and find out. It takes about 5 minutes to complete. Your participation will remain anonymous, but your input will be reviewed, appreciated and utilized to further our community’s Rise Above initiative.


Let’s change the way we think and feel about addiction.


Personal Compassion

“I'm learning more about addiction so that I can understand the people who suffer from it.”


Social Compassion

“I haven’t seen you around. Let’s get together soon and catch up, okay?”


Institutional Compassion

“Instead of firing my employee, I will offer the opportunity to enter a rehabilitation program.”


Turn a victim into a victory

Let’s change the way we think and talk about substance abuse disorders by learning more about the disease. Then, we will intuitively know what to say and do when an employee, friend or family member needs help. We will know how to encourage people to seek recovery, instead of discouraging healing. We will become part of the solution instead of perpetuating the problem.

What else can you do?

Feel free to email or write a letter with your thoughts to our staff. Share your experience with stigma related to substance abuse disorder. We’d love to learn from you. Or join us at one of our community learning and sharing events.

Rise Above events

Our initiative is designed to educate our community through events and services. We are here to help all of our community to recognize stigma and transform victimization into victory. We hope you’ll keep your minds and hearts open as you learn more about ways to reduce stigma.

We can offer your business, church or organization a “Rise Above the Stigma” lunch & learn event. Contact us to learn more.


Where to find help:

Downloadable pdf