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Reducing Stigma

Graphic that says We have a crisis. You can help. Start by changing your words. A red X is by Junkie, Druggie, Addict. A green checkmark is by Person with Substance Use Disorder.We have a crisis

In 2017, the United States declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency. In Sedgwick County,  people dying by drugs increased from 28 deaths in 2000 to 153 deaths in 2020 (Sedgwick County Drug Misuse Information Website, 2024). 

You can help

The words we use when talking about a person with a substance use disorder make a difference. 
Words shape how we view people – and how we treat them.

Start by changing your words

Stigma is the shame felt by individuals with substance use disorder. Stigmatizing words add to the shame someone with substance use disorder feels. These words also shape how we view and treat a person with substance use disorder. This can be a major barrier to treatment and recovery. 

Person-centered words highlight that substance use is one (of many) aspects of a person’s life – not the only or defining characteristic.

Stigmatizing Words

Person-Centered Words


Person with a substance use disorder


Person with a substance use disorder


Person with an alcohol use disorder


Adolescent with an addiction


Individual with a cocaine use disorder


Group engaged in risky use of substances

Why should we use person-centered words?

  • To see someone as a person who is battling a severe illness and treat them with compassion.
  • To respect the dignity of the person.
  • To help affected individuals understand they are more than the disease.
  • To promote recovery.

Facts Not Fear ICT wants to reduce stigma surrounding substance use disorder in Wichita.

We would love to hear your feedback on this message.




Understanding Substance Use Disorder
  • Is a serious medical condition where a person loses control over a specific substance, meaning they have a strong desire to use a substance and cannot consistently stop using.
  • Is a chronic (lifelong) disease - similar to diseases such as diabetes and asthma.
  • Can be treated. Just like other diseases there are treatments available for substance use disorder.
  • Can impact anyone regardless of their income, race, gender, income level or social class.

An exact cause for substance use disorder is not known. There are many reasons or factors that could lead to a person developing a substance use disorder. These reasons are referred to as risk factors.

Signs that can help you identify if someone might have a substance use disorder. 

This includes:

  • Secretive behaviors.
  • Problems at work, school, home.
  • Dedicating more time and energy to substance(s) than other activities or interests.
  • Continue using drug, even when drug causes harm.

Treatment is available for substance use disorder. Treatment is different for everyone and there is not a one size fits all model.

The three main forms of treatment include:

  • Detox
  • Counseling (could be inpatient or outpatient; could be individual, group, with friends or loved ones)
  • Medication


  • SACK – Substance Abuse Center of Kansas

  • – Search for Treatment


  • AA – Alcoholics Anonymous

  • Al-Anon – Al-Anon Family Group


  • NA – Narcotics Anonymous



NIDA – National Institute on Drug Abuse


NIAAA – National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism


SAMHSA- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration


Facts Not Fear ICT

Facts Not Fear ICT
KU School of Medicine-Wichita
1010 North Kansas
Wichita, KS 67214-3199