Preventing and Reducing Stigma


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

This web page 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, which are 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 with vulnerable populations 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)

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)


Statewide and Large-scale Anti Stigma Campaigns, Region 5

Region 5


  • Help is Here: Helpline for opioids and other Substances 
  • NAMI Illinois: Education, support, and advocacy for people affected by mental illness





  • Language First Words Matter


  • WISE End Stigma Together: Building resilience, inclusion, and hope for mental health in Wisconsin communities


Great Lakes PTTC Products: Preventing and Reducing Stigma


ATTC Network Products: Preventing and Reducing Stigma

Our partner project, the ATTC Network, offers a wide array of recorded webinars and publications that address strategies to prevent and reduce stigma. ATTC Regional Centers across the nation have created resources that you can access through the ATTC Network Products & Resources Catalog

SAMHSA Resources for Preventing and Reducing Stigma

National Recovery Month increases awareness and understanding of mental health and substance use disorders and promotes recovery. 

Other Resources

Non-Stigmatizing Language

Addictionary: Glossary of non-stigmatizing language. Produced by Recovery Research Institute

Words Matter: How Language Choice Can Reduce Stigma: Guide to non-stigmatizing language. Produced by Prevention Solutions at Education Development Center

National Initiatives

National Consortium on Stigma and Empowerment: Research group based at the Illinois Institute of Technology  

The Opioid Crisis in Tribal and Rural Communities

Debunked: A Local Podcast Dispelling Myths About the Opioid Crisis


National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Ending Discrimination Against People with Mental and Substance Use Disorders: The Evidence for Stigma Change. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.


Cook, J. E., Purdie-Vaughns, V., Meyer, I. H., & Busch, J. T. (2014). Intervening within and across levels: A multilevel approach to stigma and public health. Social Science & Medicine, 103, 101-109. 

Corrigan, P.W., Kuwabara, SA., O’Shaughnessy, J. (2009). The Public Stigma of Mental Illness and Drug Addiction: Findings from a Stratified Random Sample. Journal of Social Work. (9)(2): 139-147

Kelly, J. F., Dow, S. J., & Westerhoff, C. (2010). Does our choice of substance-related terms influence perceptions of treatment need? An empirical investigation with two commonly used terms. Journal of Drug Issues, 40(4), 805-818 

Kelly, J. F., & Westerhoff, C. M. (2010). Does it matter how we refer to individuals with substance-related conditions? A randomized study of two commonly used terms. International Journal of Drug Policy, 21(3), 202-207

Livingston, J. D., Milne, T., Fang, M. L., & Amari, E. (2012). The effectiveness of interventions for reducing stigma related to substance use disorders: a systematic review. Addiction, 107(1), 39-50Nyblade, L., Stockton, M. A., Giger, K., Bond, V., Ekstrand, M. L., Mc Lean, R., ... & Turan, J. (2019). Stigma in health facilities: why it matters and how we can change it. BMC medicine, 17(1), 25

Pachankis, J. E., Hatzenbuehler, M. L., & Starks, T. J. (2014). The influence of structural stigma and rejection sensitivity on young sexual minority men's daily tobacco and alcohol use. Social Science & Medicine, 103, 67-75

Page updated: March 4, 2020