What we all can do to reduce stigma around substance use disorder  

The shame and stigma of living with substance use disorder (SUD) have prevented many people from getting the help and support they need. In the United States, more than 22 million people with substance use disorder (SUD) have recovered, but around 90 percent of people with SUD still don’t seek treatment due to fear of judgment and shame.  

To help reduce the stigma around those experiencing SUD, including alcohol use disorder, Public Health—Seattle & King County and the Department of Community and Human Services (DCHS) collaborated to launch a new health education campaign.

The campaign called, “Don’t Count Us Out” breaks down misconceptions by showing recovery is possible, that support can make a difference in recovery, and the ways each of us can support those with SUD, including how to:

  • use supportive language,
  • have helpful conversations,
  • share local resources,
  • and show support on social media.

The campaign was developed based on insights gained from research findings and message testing conducted with King County adults in 2022 and was funded by $500,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds secured by King County Councilmember Reagan Dunn. 

Key facts about substance use disorder 

  • Recovery isn’t rare: 1 in 10 adults reports being in recovery from SUD, according to a 2017 research study. 
  • Addiction isn’t isolated to a small group of people: 46 percent, or almost half of Americans, have a close friend or loved one who has struggled with an addiction.  
  • Addiction is a health condition that needs treatment: 90 percent of people with addiction, however, never seek treatment mainly due to fear of judgment and shame.  
  • Relapse happens less than you might think: 1-4 times is the average most people relapse before achieving sustained recovery.  
  • Addiction doesn’t define someone’s future: 80 percent go on to accomplish at least one major life achievement, such as getting a job, finding a home, volunteering, or graduating. 
  • Support makes a difference: With more support, more people recover.


“When we end the silence around substance use disorder, it’s powerful to see not only how common addiction is, but also how common recovery is. People can and do get better and go on to accomplish their life goals and contribute to their community,” said Executive Constantine. “However, far too many do not seek out the treatment that will help them move forward from fear of judgment and shame. By showing our support and reducing the stigma around treatment, we can help more people access the tools they need to recover.”  

“What we know is that recovery looks different for everyone. It’s not always a linear process, and can take countless twists and turns,” said Brad Finegood, Strategic Advisor on Behavioral Health, Public Health – Seattle & King County. “For those individuals in the community who may be struggling with substance use disorder, know that there’s hope. The shame and stigma of living with substance use disorder, or knowing someone living with substance use disorder, can be overcome if we recognize that addiction is a health condition with many treatment options, including medications, that can make the recovery journey possible. Don’t feel ashamed to reach out, know how courageous you are.”

Sample Campaign Messages

Visit the campaign website to test your knowledge and learn more

How many facts do you know about substance addiction? How many people in the U.S. have recovered from addiction? Options: 1 and 100. 1 in 50. 1 in 10 or 1 in 5.

To learn more about the “Don’t Count Us Out” campaign, substance use disorder and how you can support recovery, go to www.SupportAddictionRecovery.com.  If someone is looking to begin their recovery process, the Washington Recovery Helpline is available 24/7 at www.warecoveryhelpline.org or 1-866-789-1511. 

Originally posted 10/27/2022