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4 learnings from the CCSA’s Overcoming Stigma Module

4 learnings from the CCSA’s Overcoming Stigma Module

When it comes to substance use disorder we have all probably been part of conversations that involved stigmatizing language towards individuals who are experiencing it. I recently completed a three part online training module through the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA). The modules educated me on what substance use disorder is and provided guidance on how I could incorporate the teachings into my work and personal life to help in destigmatizing substance use disorder. Here are the 4 things I took away from this training: 

  1. There are 3 types of stigma someone experiencing substance use disorder can experience; social stigma, self stigma and structural stigma. Social stigma is the stigma that society puts on individuals who experience substance use disorder. Self stigma is the negative connotations one can hold towards themselves as they navigate substance use disorder. Structural stigma is the experience that individuals have when accessing support specifically for substance use and the barriers they face making them reluctant to reach out for help. 

  2. When we speak about someone who is experiencing substance use disorder we can intentionally/unintentionally use stigmatizing language. This can impact their experience when seeking help. Instead of using identity-first language such as: alcoholic, addict, drug abuser, switch to using person-first language such as: person with an alcohol use disorder, person who uses substances. 

  3. When working/interacting with someone who is experiencing substance use disorder, check in with yourself about the language you are using. Remind yourself that there is a person behind the substance use disorder they are experiencing and ask yourself what a compassionate reaction would look like. 

  4. Not only is it important to self-reflect on your own biases, but it's also important to make note of the stigmatizing language being used around you and addressing it. This can be hard sometimes but it can help create change and break barriers. Things that you can do include encouraging others to use person-first language, sharing the teachings from the modules and voicing your opinions if you find yourself in a situation where stigmatizing language is being used. 

If you’re interested in learning more or would like to take the free online course, you can do so by going on the Canadian Substance Use and Addiction website.