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A lack of empathy for patients struggling with addiction has been found to lead to negative care outcomes in the healthcare system because of a professional’s prior internalized stigmas. Studies show that addiction treatment services often stigmatize those seeking help, and that media portrayals of substance use disorders may contribute to this stigma. To combat stigma and dehumanization, some scholarship has explored the possible benefits of destigmatizing representations of substance users in visual arts, music, and other media. Such representations, however, have also been criticized as exoticizing or exploiting suffering. This research presents and analyzes two longrunning representations of substance use: the “Voices of Addiction” series from the online magazine The Rumpus and a popular documentary series on YouTube by Soft White Underbelly, which interviews many substance users. This research explores how these portrayals differ depending on whether the representation is created by those affected personally by addiction or by a former commercial photographer.



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Can Empathetic Portrayals of Substance Use Combat Stigma? A Comparative Analysis