Raising Awareness of Addiction Stigma Using Artistic Mediums

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Every 19 minutes, someone dies from a drug overdose, with an estimated 130 Americans dying each day. In 2017, 70,200 lives were lost. The estimated cost to society is $78.5 billion dollars from expenditures related to law enforcement, health care, and lost productivity. The proliferation of the opioid crisis is rooted in stigma as individuals suffering with substance use disorder (SUD) have been invisible, marginalized, stigmatized, and criminalized. Stigma is a Greek word denoting a visual sign or mark that signifies a person as tainted and unfit for inclusion in society, a person to avoid. Sadly, the attitudes of health care professionals towards patients with SUD are largely pejorative, with nurses amongst the most punitive. Prognostic pessimism is a problem, as nurses may view patients with SUD as unlikely to recover. Across the literature, nurses struggle to view addiction as a chronic disease. Nurses noted a lack of addiction science education, preservice, and work related, leaving them feeling unprepared to care for this vulnerable population.

For this reason, education is a strategy to raise awareness of the stigma that exists in spaces and places that are designated for healing. Employing artistic mediums such as visual thinking strategies may bring addiction to the forefront and facilitate a greater understanding of the detriment of stigma to population health. The root of stigma stems from personal beliefs, attitudes, and societal views, which then overshadow care delivery. The introduction of a talking circle as a place to share burdens, personal and professional, may facilitate awareness of stigma and its origins to construct a platform for change using a dialogic process. Reducing stigma has the potential to improve environments in which patients and nurses coexist as well as to improve treatment outcomes for patients suffering from addiction.

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