Text AA

Understanding Drug-Related Stigma

Tools for Better Practice and Social Change

Contact us for more information about this training or would like Harm Reduction Coalition to provide this training at your organization.

Training Length

Half-day (3 hours)

Training Goal

This half day training will give participants a distinct set of knowledge and skills to help them understand and address drug-related stigma.

Training Objectives

Upon completion of this training, participants will:

  • Recall the meaning of stigma, discrimination and related concepts, finding personal relevance in these terms through workshop discussion and activities.
  • Identify the various ways in which drug users experience stigma through collective brainstorm and discussion.
  • Explore key sources of pre-existing stigma and discrimination, including stereotypes and labels placed on drug users.
  • Identify consequences of drug-related stigma on drug users’ willingness and ability to access services.
  • Consider ways to address stigma at individual and agency levels.
  • Gain conceptual and practical tools toward promoting attitudes and environments that challenge stigma and support drug users’ needs.
Training Rationale

For individuals who use or have a history of using drugs, the impact of stigma can permeate nearly every aspect of their life – including relationships with family, friends, employers and health care providers. While a great number of expectations are often placed on drug users to change their behaviors, the social context that creates and reinforces drug-related stigma is rarely explored or further – challenged.A greater understanding of ways in which internalized stigma can lead to harmful behaviors is valuable in working more effectively with drug using clients. In addition, through evaluation of one’s own potential role in perpetuating drug-related stigma, providers can develop new strategies for building more authentic and more productive relationships with clients.

* Key point: This training will highlight issues more often present among drug users who are disenfranchised or otherwise vulnerable (due to homelessness, economic status, etc). The writers in no way presume that there is a single drug user experience. While every effort was made to make overall themes broadly relevant, there may be examples or issues that do not apply to all drug users.


There is no pre-requisite for this training, though familiarity with the principles of harm reduction perspective may be useful.


This training is relevant for community-based direct service staff, caseworkers, therapists, peer advocates, program administrators, medical providers, and all who are interested in understanding and addressing drug-related stigma.

Curriculum Materials

Facilitator’s Guide

Participant Workbook

PowerPoint Slides (pdf)

Video Clip for Module 4

Contact us for more information about this training or would like Harm Reduction Coalition to provide this training at your organization. This curriculum was developed with support from the NYS DOH AIDS Institute.

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