A campaign to reduce stigma associated with substance-use disorders has shown it can change attitudes and beliefs about people with drug addictions and increase support for harm-reduction strategies.

The campaign, "Life Unites Us," also found a need to target the campaign to health care workers who are often the first line of contact to offer treatment for substance-use disorder.The campaign in Pennsylvania is led by Shatterproof, a national nonprofit focused on ending the nation's SUD epidemic, The company has partnered with Kentucky officials on a similar campaign.

Findings from the first year of the Pennsylvania campaign, which started in 2020, were presented at the Rx and Illicit Drug Summit in Atlanta; Tom Valentino, digital managing editor for Addiction Professionalwrites about some of those findings.

The campaign was driven by Shatterproof's research that found seven of the nine main drivers of SUDs are driven by stigma, either entirely or at least in part, Valentino reports.

The need to decrease stigma about SUD is especially important in rural areas, where research has found higher levels of stigma toward people who use opioids for nonmedical reasons, including a study by Oak Ridge Associated Universities.

The researchers measured the impact of their campaign in several ways, including statewide surveys and scheduled focus groups.

Shatterproof CEO Gary Mendell told Valentino that the survey found a willingness to live with someone with an opioid-use disorder or to continue a relationship with a friend struggling with an OUD; a higher willingness to provide the overdose-defeating drug naloxone to friends and family; and an openness to having treatment centers near their homes.

In addition, those who had viewed the campaign more often agreed that the opioid epidemic was a serious problem in their community, that medication assisted treatments for OUD are effective; and that they were more supported harm reduction strategies.

Read the full article about effective substance abuse campaigns by Al Cross at The Rural Blog.