From Fear to Support: OneEighty is Changing the Addiction Narrative

Alex Schafer and Dr. Nicole Labor

The journey to overcoming addiction is often racked with challenges, but one of the most prevalent obstacles is the pervasive stigma surrounding the condition. This addiction stigma, deeply ingrained in our community, creates a toxic environment that can hinder recovery for individuals and fuel the cycle of addiction. 

Combating this stigma of addiction requires a multifaceted approach, and OneEighty is leaning on the expertise of our team members to help guide our efforts. Alex Schafer, the Outpatient Services Manager at OneEighty, and Dr. Nicole Labor, the organization’s Addiction Specialist, emphasize that education and organization-wide initiatives are crucial. 

Alex explains, “Stigma exists partially due to limited education on addiction. Because once you sit down and have a conversation with Dr. Labor about how the brain works, how it functions, what’s happening when addiction is occurring, as well as the healing process afterward – and why a lot of people do need medication-assisted treatment – if you fully understand that whole process from beginning to end, stigma wouldn’t exist in my opinion, because it really is just a lack of education.”

Shattering Addiction Stigma, One Initiative at a Time

The path to recovery doesn’t just involve tackling addiction itself but also the societal barriers that are encountered along the way. Stigma, deeply rooted in misunderstanding and fueled by fear, can be a significant obstacle. To combat this, OneEighty has implemented a range of initiatives, drawing inspiration from team members like Alex and Dr. Labor:

1. Dr. Labor’s “Addiction 101”: Educating the Masses

As Alex highlighted, “people lack education,” which fuels stigma. Dr. Labor tackles this head-on with her “Addiction 101” video, a cornerstone of OneEighty’s educational efforts. This accessible resource breaks down the science behind addiction, dispelling myths and fostering understanding. “It became sort of my mission to help other people understand why medication is necessary,” explained Dr. Labor. “If I can get you to understand the biology of the brain and how addiction really works, then it would make sense to you why I would use a medication, right? Because you’re seeing the defect here and how this medicine kind of counteracts that defect, so it becomes more about treating a disease versus substituting one for another.”

2. Bridging the Gap: Partnerships for Change

OneEighty recognizes that healthcare providers play a crucial role in supporting recovery. However, as Dr. Labor pointed out, “healthcare systems are not always equipped with the knowledge and tools” to address addiction effectively. OneEighty forges partnerships with healthcare professionals to bridge this gap, offering training and resources to improve understanding and treatment approaches. This collaborative effort, as Dr. Labor emphasized, “can make a huge difference” in ensuring that people with addiction receive the support they deserve.

3. Words Matter: The Power of Person-First Language

OneEighty champions the use of person-first language, recognizing that addiction defines individuals as people first. As Alex mentioned, “The person-first language, empathy and compassion. Just approaching these situations with people using empathy and compassion for them. These are people first, right?” OneEighty fosters a culture of respect and dignity, breaking down the walls of judgment and isolation.

4. Celebrating Success: Sharing Stories of Hope

By celebrating the diverse journeys of individuals who have overcome addiction, OneEighty inspires hope and demonstrates the power of recovery to a broader audience, potentially reducing stigma by showcasing the positive outcomes achievable. “We’ve started doing that at our staff meetings where we’ll celebrate our peer supporters’ recovery story, like how long they’ve been sober, and sharing a fun fact, like a motivational quote about themselves. And I think it’s helpful with reducing stigma to celebrate those who are sober, too,” Alex explained. 

5. Advocating for Change: Policy as a Tool for Progress

OneEighty understands that systemic change is crucial in breaking the addiction stigma. They actively advocate for policies that support recovery and reduce stigma. This includes advocating for increased access to treatment, insurance coverage for addiction services, and combating discriminatory practices against people in recovery. As Dr. Labor mentioned, “policy plays a huge role” in creating a more supportive environment, and OneEighty is at the forefront of advocating for positive change.

We’re Here to Support You

We help people change direction with programs for addiction, domestic violence, rape crisis, mental health, housing, and prevention and education. At OneEighty, we actively support an evidence-based approach to sustainable recovery from trauma and addiction – restoring dignity and purpose, reimagining potential, and rebuilding lives. OneEighty offers counseling programs, intensive addiction treatment programs, group addiction treatment, residential services, victim services, recovery housing, and peer recovery.

OneEighty Resources

For those encountering a substance use crisis, please call OneEighty’s Substance Use Crisis hotline, available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, at 330.466.0678. For other resources, click the links below: 

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