Stigma and discrimination present a major barrier for people experiencing drug use issues to access the services needed to stabilize their lives.

The following strategies will help you identify what you and your organization can do to reduce drug-related stigma and discrimination.

What You Can Do

Explore your own values and beliefs about substance use and how they may impact how you work with people who consume alcohol/other drugs:

  • Focus on building respectful and trusting relationships with clients.
  • Use neutral, non-judgemental language.
  • Advocate on behalf of clients to ensure they get the services and resources that they are entitled to.
  • Challenge drug-related stigma and discrimination when you see it.
  • Advocate for systemic change – health, housing, employment sectors, etc.
  • Participate in networks advocating for evidence-based drug policy.

What Your Organization Can Do

Ensure your organization complies with provincial policy and legislation that protects people from discrimination and requires a “duty to accommodate.”

  • Ontario Human Rights Code
  • Policy on preventing discrimination based on mental health and addictions
  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities 
  • Involve people who consume alcohol/other drugs in developing, implementing and evaluating policies and programs.
  • Involve people who consume alcohol/other drugs on your Board of Directors, staff hiring committees, etc.
  • Develop harm reduction and/or human rights policies for your organization.
  • Create a welcoming, non-judgemental environment.
  • Hire peer workers.
  • Offer low-threshold services, specifically for people who consume alcohol/other drugs.
  • Ensure your intake and assessment forms do not use stigmatizing language or ask for information that is not relevant to the service being provided.
  • Ensure staff and volunteers receive anti-stigma training.
  • Add discussions about stigma and discrimination as a standing item to team meetings.
  • Create a staff group to identify and address service barriers and challenges.

Read more: The Stigma, Discrimination and Substance Use report details the experiences of people who use alcohol and other drugs in Toronto.