Stop Stigma Campaign

Changing language and perceptions

The stigma of drug and alcohol hinders our work to create a healthier Arkansas. Labels such as “junkie,” “addict” and “druggie” damage individuals’ self-image and become barriers to seeking treatment. 

Substance use disorders are not a choice. They are chronic diseases—similar to diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis. And like other diseases, they can be treated medically. 

The mission of the Arkansas Stop Stigma campaign is to encourage individuals to examine their attitudes and adjust the language they use to talk about substance use disorders

Examples of Stigma

Negative Comments

  • “Once a junkie, always a junkie”
  • “You’re not fit to be a parent.”

Common Misperceptions

  • Substance use disorders are a personal choice.
  • Substance use disorders are signs of human weakness or a lack of morals.
  • Substance use disorders are the result of poor parenting.

Social Restrictions

  • People in recovery with children have experienced other parents unwilling to let their children play at their schoolmate’s homes.


  • Some communities view substance use disorders as a crime, which must be penalized, rather than a disease that needs treatment.

The Stop Stigma campaign has produced a suite of products that you can share in your community. These products include videos, social media images, posters, buttons, and mirror cards.

Examples of Changing Language from Negative to Neutral

Addict, Drug abuse Person with substance use disorder
Alcoholic Person with alcohol use disorder
Drug problem, drug habit Substance Use Disorder
Drug abuse Drug misuse, Harmful use
Clean Abstinent, Not actively using
Dirty Actively using
Former/reformed addict/alcoholic Person in recovery,
Person in long-term recovery