Addiction-related stigma poses a significant barrier to seeking support, new report reveals

In the Summer of 2022, Adferiad Recovery launched the ‘Only Human’ campaign, which focused on ways to tackle addiction-related stigma in Wales. We held 27 event days across the whole of the country in order to raise awareness about the harmful consequences of addiction-related stigma, and to encourage people to question their beliefs about addiction and those who experience it.

So what exactly is addiction-related stigma and why is it so harmful?

Addiction is a compulsive need to use a substance or engage in a certain behaviour to the point where it becomes harmful. Almost all of us will either know someone with an addiction problem, or will have first-hand experience of addiction ourselves, whether it be an addiction to a particular substance (such as tobacco or alcohol) or an addiction to a certain behaviour (such as gambling or shopping).

Society tends to judge people with addictions on a number of factors including their appearance, character, choices, and values, and people suffering from addiction problems are often unfairly labelled or stereotyped, creating division between them and non-stigmatised people in the community. This division can lead to discrimination or harmful stigma which often becomes internalised as self-stigma, which is when a person begins to view themselves in the same negative way as society does. This constant, repetitive cycle of judgement and contempt can lead to feelings of guilt, shame, and worthlessness and as a result, people with addictions often feel like they don’t deserve help or support. Because of this, people suffering with addictions do not receive the treatment that they need, and feel as though they are left with no other option than to retreat further into their addiction.

At Adferiad, we believe that everybody has the right to be treated with dignity and respect and that every person deserves support when they are struggling. In order to tackle the issue of addiction stigma, we developed the ‘Only Human’ survey, informed by a panel of experts with lived-experience of addiction. The survey sought to provide insight into people’s own personal experiences of addiction-related stigma and to gather suggestions on how best to overcome stigma and provide  support people struggling with addiction.

The three main aims of our survey were:

  • To tackle the stigma associated with addiction
  • To give a voice to those with lived experience of addiction
  • To celebrate and promote recovery

Our campaign generated high levels of public interest and engagement at both our event days and through social media. In addition, we collected over 200 survey responses over the course of our campaign.


So what did we find?

  • Half of our respondents had experience of addiction, and alcohol was most commonly reported type of addiction
  • Men were more likely to report having an addiction than women, and the people in the sixties age bracket (60 – 69 years) were most likely to report first-hand experience of addiction
  • Addictions were typically co-occurring with many respondents reporting having multiple addictions at the same time
  • 80% of respondents with addiction had experienced related stigma and nearly 70% of these respondents felt this prevented them from seeking support
  • Addiction stigma occurred in unexpected places including within the police force and in a variety of healthcare settings
  • Almost 96% of respondents were in favour of treating addiction in the same way as other health conditions and respondents suggested a number of potential ways to combat addiction-related stigma in the future


Following the success of our campaign, Adferiad remain committed to challenging the way that society views addiction by engaging in further dialogue about addiction, speaking up against harmful stereotypes, and supporting individuals in overcoming their addictions. Stigma presents a major barrier for people suffering from addiction and we believe it is everybody’s responsibility to do something about this. The bottom line is;

You can read the full report here or for the brief summary version, click here. The report is also available to read in Welsh.