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Get the Facts

We encourage you to increase your knowledge base by learning more about the effects of stigma on individuals impacted by substance use disorder (SUD). Acquiring knowledge is the first step towards changing beliefs, and beliefs drive behavior. Be part of the change.

Defining Addiction

Addiction can happen to anyone. It is not a moral failing or character flaw. Like other chronic medical conditions, continual treatment is needed to maintain long-term recovery from substance use disorder.

Substance use disorder is a treatable chronic medical condition characterized by a problematic pattern of use of a substance or substances, creating craving and dependency and a need to continue using despite harmful consequences and a disruption of everyday life. SUDs can range in severity from mild to severe and can affect people of any race, gender, income level, or social class.

Judgment and punishment are not effective ways to heal a person’s addiction. Addiction stigma manifests through negative beliefs and perceptions about addiction held among the wider public, resulting in prejudice and discrimination. To fight the addiction crisis, we must educate our peers and spread acceptance.

  • Stigma prevents many people with a substance use disorder from seeking treatment.
  • Stigma limits the ability of institutions and providers to offer help when someone seeks assistance by limiting resources and perpetuating harmful policies.
  • Stigma fuels a feeling of shame that serves as an obstacle to long-term health.

*Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 2023. Substance Use and Co-Occurring Mental Disorders

Types of Addiction Stigma 

Public Stigma: Public stigma is society's negative attitudes toward a group of people, creating an environment where people feel unwelcomed, judged, and blamed.  Less than 40% of Georgians would be willing to spend an evening socializing with a person in recovery from an opioid use disorder (OUD).

Structural Stigma: Structural stigma includes systems-level discrimination caused by institutional policies and/or dominant cultural norms.  Approximately 9 out of 10 Georgians agree that people with OUD should receive support from their employers and equitable care from their healthcare providers. 

Self-Stigma: Self-stigma happens when people internalize and accept society’s negative stereotypes, resulting in low self-esteem. 34% of Georgians with OUD expressed believing that they deserve the bad things that have happened to them.

Stigma Against MOUD:
 Medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD) is an effective, clinically proven treatment that helps people in their recovery. Stigma against MOUD stems from misconceptions that result in lack of access to life-saving treatment. There are multiple pathways to recovery. MOUD is one of them. 60% of Georgians agree that MOUD is an effective treatment for OUD.*Source: Shatterproof. 2020. Learn about addiction stigma.

Georgia Recovers is an evidence-based public health campaign striving to address the prejudice and discrimination faced by people impacted by substance use disorder (SUD) throughout Georgia. This initiative is brought to you by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) in partnership with Shatterproof.


Georgia Recovers is a campaign brought to you by the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) in partnership with Shatterproof, a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization (Tax ID #45-4619712) under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

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