Message Guide – Drug Stigma

CPD Hours: 1
Current as at 27 October 2021
Emphasizing the need to consider the impact of stigma and discrimination for persons who experience substance use problems as a violation of their human rights and dignity.

Tags:

“Understand how we can better communicate about drugs and drug policy in Australia”

Course Content

The authors start this document by emphasizing the need to consider the impact of stigma and discrimination for persons who experience substance use problems as a violation of their human rights and dignity. Although the literature on mental health stigma has grown significantly in recent years, it is critical to apply what we have learned on stigma specifically to substance use. In 2016, a report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine concluded that the body of research on stigma related to substance use is sparse compared to the much larger evidence base that has amassed for mental illness. In 2017, a series of papers evaluated the status of the current evidence base for stigma related to mental illness and drug dependence.

In this paper, the authors explore some of the connections around human dignity, human rights, language, and stigma. Stigmatizing attitudes of health professionals towards people with substance use problems may negatively affect healthcare delivery and could result in treatment avoidance or interruption during relapse. Previous studies demonstrate the negative effects of stigma experiences among people in treatment for substance use disorders on recovery and feelings of self-efficacy. Negative attitudes of health professionals towards patients with alcohol or other drug addiction are known to lead to poor communication between professional and patient, diminished therapeutic alliance, and misattribution of physical illness symptoms to substance use problems also referred to as diagnostic overshadowing.

As known from stigma research in general, factors that could mitigate stigmatizing attitudes are attribution beliefs and knowledge of and experience with a stigmatized condition. These factors may influence health professionals’ attitudes towards patients with substance use disorders. Thus, overall the attitudes of health professionals have the potential to influence the diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of substance use disorders.

 

Learning Outcomes

In this session, you will:

  • Understand how we can better communicate about drugs and drug policy in Australia
  • Learn about the impact of positive expression when addressing the issue of drug use in Australia
  • Discuss the focus on identifying perspectives on this topic
  • Learn common words and phrases used when talking about the use of drugs
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