Framing Matters: How Sharing Personal Stories May Help Dismantle Addiction Stigma and Increase Access to Treatment

Amy Edmonds

Sheena is a young woman raising two young sons on her own in North Carolina. She ferries her children to daycare, prepares their meals, and every week makes her way to UNC Horizons at Sunrise Drug Treatment Center for substance-use screening. Sheena was introduced to opioids as a teenager and struggled with addiction until after the birth of her younger son, who was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). His birth was a critical time for intervention; it wasn’t until after her son’s birth that she received the integrated and supportive addiction care she needed. Tragically, although substance-use disorder is preventable and treatable, only a small fraction of people with addiction issues receive care. Sheena was recently featured in a segment by PBS that highlights both her immense struggles and her bright outlook; the story concludes with Sheena telling the special correspondent, “I’ve come so tremendously far.” Sheena’s challenges with opioid addiction during pregnancy are not uncommon. In the midst of an opioid epidemic, NAS is becoming a growing burden across the U.S., especially in rural communities. In West Virginia, over 3% of babies are born with NAS; as a nation, NAS incidence has increased by 300% between 1999 and […]

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