Notice of Special Interest: Strategies to Address Stigmatizing Beliefs and Policies Affecting People Who Use Drugs

Notice Number: NOT-DA-25-029

Deadline: June 5, 2024


People who use drugs experience stigma from different sources and in a variety of contexts, all of which are associated with negative outcomes. Some common stigmatizing beliefs directed toward people who use drugs include the notion that drug use is a personal choice, that people with substance use disorders (SUD) can stop using drugs if they have enough willpower, and that people with SUD are dishonest and immoral. These beliefs can manifest through negative interactions with friends and family members as well as through unpleasant encounters with healthcare providers. Stigma also exists at the structural level, such as through public policies that criminalize people with SUD. People who use drugs may also experience self-stigma, which occurs when they internalize stereotypes associated with substance use and direct these beliefs toward themselves. As a result, they often opt to not disclose to other people that they have SUD.

Stigma directed toward people who use drugs has been linked to many negative outcomes, including increases in drug use; a lower likelihood of obtaining and completing SUD treatment, including reluctance to utilizing medications for opioid use disorder or premature discontinuation of these effective medications; housing instability; criminal-legal involvement; social isolation; physical and mental health challenges; and challenges with managing acute and chronic pain among people who use drugs. The numerous negative outcomes associated with stigma highlight the need for rigorous research on ways to address stigma and its associated consequences. Therefore, this NOSI highlights support for research to develop, adapt, and/or test strategies aimed at addressing stigma at the individual, interpersonal, and/or structural levels.

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