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Addiction Policy Forum Monthly Mission Moment


Spotlight on Addiction Policy Forum Initiatives to End Stigma Around Addiction

For this month’s mission moment, we are highlighting our work to end the stigma around substance use disorders. Over the past year, we have hosted over 20 training sessions on stigma, launched courses on the latest stigma research and innovations, produced an explainer video on why language matters, and developed a stigma intervention, a program that improved addiction literacy and reduces stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination that constitute stigma.


Online Stigma Courses

Through the National Institute on Drug Abuse’s (NIDA) Justice Community Opioid Innovation Network (JCOIN), we have created free, online courses on the latest research and innovations around addressing stigma, and are tailored for a different of audiences. These courses teach participants about the different types of stigma, the social construct of stigma at structural and individual levels, and innovations being used in health and justice settings.


Language Matters

When words are used inappropriately to describe individuals with a substance use disorder, it not only negatively impacts the cultural perception of their disease, but creates stigma that can stop people from seeking help. We have developed a video explainer on the importance of being aware of the words that we use to describe addiction and removing negative words from our vocabulary. We also created an infographic that highlights words that may reinforce shame, prejudice, and discrimination and presents alternatives that promote compassion and accurate language.


Webinar on Substance Use Disorders and Stigma

Addiction Policy Forum and the Chris & Vicky Cornell Foundation hosted a webinar on Substance Use Disorders and Stigma: Research, Racial Disparities and Promising Approaches. The webinar featured leading researchers, advocates, and policymakers that are working to address stigma including Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Dr. Valerie Earnshaw, Associate Professor at the University of Delaware, Congressman David Trone, representing Maryland's Sixth Congressional District, Beverly Watts Davis, COO of WestCare Foundation, and Camille Schrier, Miss America 2020 and Doctor of Pharmacy Student. Presenters discussed the latest research on stigma, the interplay of racial disparities and stigma, and promising approaches to end the stigma surrounding addiction.


Addiction is a Disease and Needs to be Treated as Such

“It's been actually strange to me that people have such difficulty understanding addiction as a disease because a disease is basically described as damage in an organ or a system that jeopardizes your wellbeing. We now have clear-cut evidence that certain circuits in the brain become dysfunctional when you are addicted to drugs.” -- Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse To highlight the importance of treating addiction as a disease, we created a video explainer that features the country’s top doctor and neuroscientist, Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, who breaks down the science of addiction and discusses why addiction is a disease.

enCompass: A Comprehensive Training on Navigating Addiction


enCompass is an interactive, multidisciplinary training program created by the Addiction Policy Forum and the Office of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s RecoveryOhio Initiative to expand knowledge about addiction and support families, caregivers, and community leaders in communities across the state that are impacted by addiction. The training builds on APF’s Navigating Addiction and Treatment: A Guide for Families, which was released in 2020. enCompass teaches participants about the science of addiction and equips them with the skills to address substance use disorders in their families, among their friends, and in their communities. Participants also learn about the signs and symptoms of addiction and about the medications that are available to treat addiction, as well as how to start the conversation, how to get an assessment and access recovery support and treatment, and how to set healthy boundaries.


Since April 2021, Addiction Policy Forum and RecoveryOhio have conducted over 20 county trainings in coordination with local Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Boards across the state. We also hosted a statewide training with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and have had over 1600 attendees total.


2021 North Dakota Stigma Survey

In August 2021, the Addiction Policy Forum, University of Delaware, and Recovery Reinvented initiative conducted a statewide survey to measure the presence of substance use disorder stigma. Over 2,330 people responded to the survey by answering questions about stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination intent towards people with a substance use disorder or in recovery. The survey also assessed addiction literacy among various stakeholder groups and the level of support for public health responses to addiction.


Findings from the survey were published in the report, North Dakota Stigma Survey: Findings on Attitudes, Levels of Stigma, and Support of Key Policies to Address Addiction. Dr. Valerie Earnshaw, Associate Professor at the University of Delaware and co-lead on the project, presented the findings at the Recovery Reinvented 2021 conference in October 2021, and can be watched here.

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