Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction

What Is Stigma?

The stigma around substance use is one of the biggest barriers for people seeking and receiving treatment for substance use disorders. Stigma often takes the form of discriminatory attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. Stigma is most apparent in stigmatizing language, which relies heavily on stereotypes to shame and belittle individuals. Words matter. Changing our words can encourage more compassion.

Stigma is not only hurtful, it has real-life consequences. In the field of substance use, stigma is a significant barrier for those with a substance use disorder or who have used substances in the past. Family and friends of people who use substances can also experience stigma.

What Are We Doing to End Stigma?

CCSA is committed to sharing evidence on and ending the stigma around substance use within our community of influence. We collaborate with a diverse group of industry professionals, government departments and educators to help end stigma. We provide this help through evidence-informed reports and public engagement workshops. #StigmaEndsWithMe has been a theme of CCSA’s National Addictions Awareness Week. CCSA has teamed up with universities, hospitals and other organizations to ensure we’re all doing our part in making people aware of the harms of stigma. We’re also partnering with the Community Addictions Peer Support Association to help spread this message Canada-wide.

Our commitment to ending stigma is clear. In 2017, we dropped the word “abuse” from our title to officially become the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.

Anti-Stigma Workshops

Our commitment to ending stigma expands far past the walls of CCSA.

We are doing this through full-day and half-day anti-stigma workshops. During the workshops, experts in the field review the evidence and experiences of stigma to help audience members reflect on how they can identify stigma in their lives and ultimately change the way they understand substance use and addiction.

These workshops are attended by people from all walks of life. We are proud to host workshop presenters with lived and living experience and people who work in neuroscience, healthcare, research and community support. More than 500 people from across Canada have attended a workshop.

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