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Reducing alcohol stigma in services

Stigma (strong feelings of disapproval) is a major issue for people who have problems with alcohol. It can:

Many people with alcohol problems experience stigma. They may also experience self-stigma, including feelings of shame and embarrassment.

Older adults also experience stigma due to their age, leading to even more stigma for those of them with alcohol problems.

According to Drink Wise, Age Well research, one common and harmful stereotype is that older adults are set in their ways or too old to change.

As a result, they are less likely to be referred for alcohol treatment than younger people. But in fact, there is substantial evidence that older people are more likely to be successfully treated.

Nobody should feel ashamed or stigmatised because of problems with alcohol. Reducing stigma in alcohol services leads to better engagement - and fewer people stopping treatment early.

Types of stigma in alcohol treatment

There are many negative stereotypes about people with alcohol problems, but these don’t reflect reality for most people.

There are many different reasons why people can develop problems with alcohol - and they affect people from all kinds of backgrounds.

People with alcohol problems, and those close to them, can experience:

Ways to reduce stigma

Whatever your role in alcohol treatment, you can help reduce stigma. Here are some things to consider:

Offer more support

Sometimes offering more support and information is all it takes to help someone feel less stigmatised.

Challenge stigmatising language and behaviours

We can all combat stigma by recognising and challenging stigmatising language in ourselves and in colleagues.

Protect people’s dignity and privacy

You can help people feel more at ease and less vulnerable to stigma by taking simple steps to maintain their dignity and privacy.

Wider health and wellbeing

Beyond the immediate need for help with alcohol, you can take steps to support people’s wider health and wellbeing.