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Stop the Stigma | A new way of looking at drug addiction

Several Arkansas agencies have teamed up for a new campaign to change the way we address people with use substance disorders.

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Stop the Stigma is a new campaign designed by the State of Arkansas Drug Director, Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas Department of Health, and Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care.

It is a pledge to end the stigmas surrounding drug addiction and how Arkansas as a state addresses it.

This goes as far as even changing the terminology. 

"What we find out and a lot of times when people have substance use disorder it's not really a choice, they are not really wanting to get high it's really about maintaining and living a normal life," said Arkansas Drug Director Kirk Lane.

Instead of using the term "drug addict," the preferred term is "substance use disorder.

RELATED: Drug overdose deaths surpass homicides in Arkansas for first time ever

The effort also includes cards that the agencies will pass out during presentations and speeches.

"It says 'What does a drug addict look like?' Even the word drug addict is stigmatizing," Lane said. "Then on the back side is a mirror where you would reflect on yourself, because we realize that a lot of people can have a substance use disorder."

Mikel Brooks who spent years struggling with intravenous drug addiction agrees that stigma is a big part of the problem.

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"I kind of experienced first hand the stigmas around it and the way people just shun you completely," Brooks said.

He also believes this new effort is a great way to start the conversation and create change. 

"It needs to be something that everybody is discussing. Everyone who is looking around at your families we need to realize that we are all in this together, and like they said it could be me it could be you," Brooks said.

If you would like to get involved with Stop Stigma or receive more information about it, you can contact the Arkansas Department of Human Services at StopStigma@dhs.arkansas.gov. You can also call 501-683-5908.

They'll send you a poster with the Stop Stigma pledge, buttons for taking the pledge, Stop Stigma mirror cards, and a copy of a way you can change your words to help stop the stigma.