Strategy addresses comprehensive approach to reduce four key areas of stigma through mobilizing key stakeholder groups across our nation

New York, NY, July 16, 2020 – Today, Shatterproof, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis in the United States, released its national strategy the Movement to End Addiction Stigma. Shatterproof identified nine commonly cited drivers of the opioid epidemic, seven of which are either partially or entirely driven by stigma. However, addiction related stigma is not being addressed nationally and thus creating a massive gap in the nation’s response to the epidemic – a gap that Shatterproof and our partners will close.   

Complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ripple effects of unemployment, economic downfall, isolation and mental health challenges, the addiction epidemic is intensifying with overdoses up by as much as 42 percent in May compared with last year. Shatterproof is leading the mobilization of organizations throughout the country to implement evidenced informed actions to address this underlying cause of this mounting public health crisis. These actions will address the discrimination and negative public attitudes and behaviors toward those with addiction that have been a critical barrier to treatment and recovery for millions of Americans. 

“Most people mistakenly believe that addiction is the fault of those with this disease, that it is caused by a lack of willpower, and that addiction is not treatable,” said Shatterproof Founder and CEO Gary Mendell. “As a result, many will not seek treatment because they fear their family, friends or employer will find out they have addiction. And those who do seek treatment may not be able to have access or find quality treatment. The Movement to End Addiction Stigma will clear the hurdles millions are facing, stop feelings of shame, and create hope for those with addiction and their families.” 

Shatterproof, along with the support of McKinsey’s Center for Societal Benefit through Healthcare and The Public Good Projects, assessed 11 analogous social-change movements to understand how they shifted behaviors, reviewed hundreds of publications and reports related to stigma reduction and social change, and held interviews with over 50 experts in social change, mental health, and substance use disorder. This research helped inform this evidence-informed strategy to end addiction stigma. The National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Countering the U.S. Opioid Epidemic facilitated an independent, blinded, and academically rigorous external peer review of Shatterproof’s white paper on a pro-bono basis. 

The strategy addresses four key areas of stigma along with intersectional stigma: 

  • Public stigma also known as social stigma and related to society’s attitudes toward a group of people 

  • Structural stigma occurring at the systems level through policies and practices  

  • Self-stigma referring to the process by which “stigmatized individuals accept societal stereotypes and consequently experience reduced self-esteem and self-efficacy; and,  

  • Stigma against medications for opioid use disorder (“MOUD”) which has limited the use of evidence-based treatment. 

As the central coordinating body, Shatterproof will address stigma by partnering with stakeholders within six segments of our society that will have the largest impact on ending addiction stigma – employers, healthcare, government, criminal justice, media and entertainment and local communities. People with lived experience will be critical across each of these systems and play a variety of roles in the delivery of this work. Evidence-informed, implementable Action Plans tailored to each stakeholder systems will include two components: 1) Action items which are specific activities focused on educating with contact-based strategies, adjusting language, and eliminating harmful policies; and, 2) Implementation tools with “off-the-shelf” content to easily incorporate action items into their organization. These will include online education, language materials and prototypes for policy change. 

“I have learned from my interactions with Shatterproof and health and safety officials, as well as friends and employees who’ve lost loved ones to opioid overdoses, that one of the most impactful ways to fight the national opioid crisis is to directly address the stigma associated with addiction,” shared The Hartford’s Chairman and CEO, Christopher Swift. “Stigma can stand in the way of individuals seeking help when they need it most. The Hartford is committed to addressing stigma by engaging with empathy and projecting hope to our employees, customers and communities. I encourage all business leaders to consider joining us and Shatterproof, to take action to end addiction stigma and remove this hurdle for those who might otherwise seek timely help with substance misuse. Working together, we can overcome the opioid crisis.”  

Shatterproof has already mobilized partners to support the strategy and to take action with resources for change. Founding Partners include The Hartford, the Brian Mendell Memorial Foundation, and the State of Pennsylvania. Member organizations supporting through financial and activation support include Axial Healthcare and Emergent BioSolutions. Coalition Members, which are organizations collaborating on resources and thought leadership to drive social change, include McKinsey & Company, the National Safety Council, The Public Goods Project, Milken Institute and Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin 

whose ReSET Stigma module will educate health care professionals and students about Opioids and Stigma.  

To learn more about the Movement to End Addiction Stigma, visit 


About Shatterproof: 

Shatterproof is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to reversing the course of the addiction crisis in America. Shatterproof is focused on ensuring that American substance use disorder treatment is based upon proven research and ending the stigma of addiction. The organization advocates for changes to federal and state policy, payer reform, treatment quality assessment, and provides public education through online programs. 

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