Falling medication

Substance abuse: the use of illegal drugs or the use of prescription or over-the-counter drugs or alcohol for purposes other than those for which they are meant to be used, or in excessive amounts. Substance abuse may lead to social, physical, emotional and job-related problems and often times, death.

As a recognized medical brain disorder, substance abuse refers to the abuse of illegal substances, such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine or methamphetamine. It also includes the abuse of legal substances, such as alcohol, nicotine or prescription medicines. Alcohol is the most common legal drug of abuse.

Unfortunately, stigma around substance abuse disorder creates barriers for people to seek treatment and access care. Many patients with an opioid use disorder have a high likelihood of readmission, and the underlying cause of patients’ substance use disorder is often not addressed.

Ending the Stigma

Diane Eide“Ending the stigma of substance use disorder starts with treating it as a chronic disease, same as heart disease or diabetes.  We also need to change our language, stop using words like addict, user, meth head, tweaker, junkie, former addict or drunk. We need to use language that reflects a chronic disease, such as recovery, substance use disorder, a person who previously used drugs or person in recovery. Feeling stigmatized can reduce the willingness of individuals with substance use disorder to seek treatment. Please stop the stigma and the labeling so others are not afraid to find help,” shared Diane Eide. Diane lost her son, Trace, to a substance use disorder.

Stephanie HansenAs a nurse and a quality improvement advisor in South Dakota, I am passionate to educate and stop the stigma related to Substance use disorders. Opioids and other substances are not a weakness, it’s a disease. Opioids and other substances can take over the brain and leave people feeling trapped. Let’s stop the silence and judgement and help others and help yourself by seeking treatment. As a healthcare provider community, let’s commit to being part of the solution in how we discuss and refer to individuals struggling with substance abuse issues,” added Stephanie Hanson, RN; Great Plains QIN Quality Improvement Advisor.

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Attend our January 2023 Friday Focus 4 Health Series to learn more and further this conversation; the January series will focus on Opioids and Adverse Drug Events. You can register for either the Opioid or Adverse Drug Event session (or both). Register Today.

Resources to Address Stigma

Finding Help:


  1. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Non-Fatal Opioid Overdose Tracker