Preventing and Reducing Stigma

Crowd Talking


The Great Lakes PTTC is committed to preventing and reducing the pervasive stigma associated with having, treating, or being in recovery from a substance use disorder.


Our efforts include:

  • Disseminating research on the impact of stigma on populations and key community sectors
  • Presenting evidence-based and theoretically sounds stigma prevention or reduction strategies
  • Spreading the message that a substance use disorder is a chronic medical condition rather than a moral failing
  • Encouraging the use of non-stigmatizing language related to substance use disorders
  • Building awareness of anti-stigma initiatives at the community and state levels in the Great Lakes Region


Purpose of this Webpage

Preventing and Reducing Stigma contributes to national efforts to understand and change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that can lead to stigma and discrimination.

Changing stigma in a lasting way will require coordinated efforts based on the best possible evidence. This web page provides a place to learn about the impact of stigma on vulnerable populations and offers best practices for preventing and reducing stigma within relevant community sectors.


A Basic Definition

“Stigma can be understood as an attribute, behavior, or reputation that is socially discrediting, and substance-related problems appear to be particularly susceptible to stigma.” (John F. Kelly∗, Cassandra M. Westerhoff)


Language Matters

A Statement on Language

“How we refer to individuals with substance-related conditions and that use of, and exposure to, the “abuser” label may inadvertently elicit and perpetuate stigmatizing attitudes. Because such a low proportion of individuals with these costly and harmful conditions access treatment and cite stigma as a major barrier.”  (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2008)


Revised statewide campaigns


States in the Great Lakes Region are taking action to prevent and reduce stigma through a variety of statewide and large-scale initiatives.

Read about the Great Lakes Region Anti-Stigma Campaigns

Venn Stigma Basics


This recorded presentation from the Great Lakes PTTC gives an overview of stigma and its impact on people with mental health and substance use disorders.

Watch the Stigma Basics recorded presentation.


Research shows that using affirming language can help reduce the stigma associated with having, treating, or being in recovery from a substance use or mental health disorder. 

Click here to view resources on recommended alternative language. 


Revised GLPTTC Products


View our growing inventory of recorded webinars, slide decks, and other training resources designed for education and outreach efforts to prevent and reduce stigma. Click here for more information.

Preventing Community Revised


Empowerment and resilience are the key tools in efforts to address stigma in all community sectors.

Click here to read more about the impact of stigma and evidence-based strategies for addressing stigma in specific community sectors

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SAMHSA's Technology Transfer Center (TTC) program includes the ATTC, MHTTC, and PTTC.

Click here for information on selected products from across the TTC programs

Revised tile organizations


National organizations are working to prevent and reduce stigma. Click here to learn more.



A growing body of research documents the impact of stigma on health care, along with evidence-based practices for preventing and reducing stigma. Click here to read more