Social Supports and Community Context │AIR CARES

Group of people, including man in wheelchair, holding hands outside

AIR’s Center for Addiction Research and Effective Solutions (CARES) focuses on social and community context to reduce the harmful policies that stigmatize addiction; minimize the negative consequences of substance use disorder; and improve psychosocial, intergenerational, and interpersonal connections.

Because social support and social capital of communities is essential for preventing addiction and supporting those in recovery, solutions must act as a counterbalance to the historic disinvestment and traumatization of minority and low-income communities.

The “War on Drugs” has led to the over-policing of brown and black communities and an exponential increase in the prison population, unmatched by any other industrialized nation. For as long as addiction is treated as a criminal offense and not a medical condition, we will likely continue to see few gains on the overdose crisis.

Stigma and social norms related to drugs and addiction drive policies, practices, and programs. Policies related to the War on Drugs further bolster stigma. Our understanding about what will effectively decrease stigma on addiction is limited, and communities must be authentically engaged to understand contextual factors and the levers that will alter knowledge, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. Community-based evaluation should be factored into this work so that the knowledge base on what works to reduce stigma can grow.