Massachusetts Kicks Off Media Campaign to Reduce Stigma of Addiction

By Victoria Kim 11/13/15

The state announced its #StateWithoutStigMA campaign last week.

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A five week media campaign to combat the stigma of addiction kicked off in Massachusetts last week. The campaign will broadcast on radio, billboards, and digital ads featuring Massachusetts residents who have experienced the stigma first hand.

“Addiction is a chronic illness, not a moral failure,” Gov. Charlie Baker said at a press conference, where he announced the #StateWithoutStigMA campaign.

The campaign seeks to educate the public about addiction and the harms of stigmatizing behaviors.

“Studies show that stigmas can prevent people from getting into treatment—holding them back from recovery, stability and success,” said Gov. Baker. “This campaign is another effort to bend the trend and change the way we think about opioid misuse and addiction.”

The #StateWithoutStigMA webpage gives examples of stigma such as using derogatory labels like junkie and druggie, or holding on to the idea that addiction is a sign of human weakness, a lack of morals or willpower, or that it’s a result of poor parenting.

Another facet of the campaign is a YouTube video series featuring the personal voices of addicts who talk about how the stigma of addiction made their path to recovery all the more difficult.

“I wouldn’t go to the hospital, just because I knew that as soon as I got there, as soon as they looked in my chart and saw that I had a history of heroin addiction or saw the abscess in my arm, I was instantly labeled a junkie,” said Stephanie, who said the shame she felt made her think twice about seeking treatment. “I was left in the hallway for hours, asking for a glass of water. I’d be ignored for hours.”

It seems drug abuse can no longer be ignored, as it’s reached epidemic levels in the United States. Now is a good a time as ever to address the debilitating effect of stigmatizing addiction, and once again Massachusetts is leading the charge.

“Published research confirms that the stigma of addiction—negative attitudes and labels targeting those with drug problems—is a significant reason people do not seek treatment,” said Marylou Sudders, Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. “Embracing those who are struggling, rather than shunning them, is a critical component to curbing the crisis.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr