Addiction 101

Impact of prejudice and discrimination

Fear and misunderstanding often lead to prejudice against people with substance use problems. Prejudice includes unfounded and biased opinions, and discrimination is the physical act that is based on these beliefs. This can be referred to as “stigma.” When people experience prejudice and discrimination, they may feel even more hopeless and ashamed. The stigma attached to mental health and substance use problems is a serious barrier, not only to diagnosis and treatment but to acceptance in the community.

Prejudice and discrimination can:

    seriously affect someone's well-being
    stop many people from seeking treatment
    affect relationships by changing the way others see them
    hurt self-esteem by affecting how people see themselves
    affect people while they are experiencing problems, while they are in treatment and while they are healing.

Stigma can have many layers. People may face prejudice and discrimination because of their substance use, as well as their race, culture, religion, sexual orientation, economic status or age. Multi-layered stigma can create huge barriers for people who want to seek treatment or support for their substance use problem.

Some people have said the prejudice they experience is worse than their original substance use problem. Anticipating or experiencing prejudice stops many people with substance use problems from seeking help or continuing treatment.

Addiction 101 © , CAMH.