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USM Student Group Launches Program to Educate Peers about Addiction, Disease Prevention, Treatment and Recovery

Tue, 11/01/2022 - 08:26am | By: David Tisdale

group photoA group of University of Southern Mississippi (USM) School of Psychology students devoted to combating the stigma of substance use disorder (addiction) through peer-based education recently formed the Shatterproof Student Association (SSA) – the first initiative of its kind on a college campus. 

The SSA takes its lead from the national organization, Shatterproof, whose mission is to reverse the addiction crisis in the U.S. by transforming addiction treatment, ending addiction stigma and empowering and educating communities. The SSA is a pilot with the goal of forming similar organizations on other college and university campuses over the next year.

Ashley Martin, a senior psychology major from Slidell, La., played a key role in the formation of the SSA at USM.

“In the spring semester, I took a course taught by Dr. Madson about addiction counseling,” Martin said. “I was blown away by the number of things I grew up being taught that were either a misconception or false. Toward the end of the semester, Dr. Madson mentioned to the class that he would like to see a student group on campus advocate for the things we learned, and that is when I realized how valuable this could be. From then on, I was determined to get this accomplished in only a few short months so the group would be up and running for the following school year.”

Dr. Michael Madson, a professor of psychology at USM whose research expertise includes substance addiction and harm reduction among college student communities, says it is personally rewarding for his work at the University to see a group of students develop the association to combat stigma related to addiction and advocate for evidence-based prevention, treatment and harm reduction.

“Addiction is a leading cause of accidental death in the U.S. The need for increased awareness as well as systemic change has never been more urgent. It’s important to have conversations about the disease in as many settings as possible,” said Lynne Nouvel, vice president of grassroots engagement at Shatterproof. “We applaud the USM students for getting involved in such a significant way. Their voices, their stories and their leadership will be impactful to this movement.”

“The fact that SSA at USM is the first student organization in the country associated with Shatterproof in this way highlights how Southern Miss students are trailblazers in the fight against addiction,” said Dr. Madson. “Hopefully, SSA at USM will serve as the blueprint for how students on college campuses nationwide can organize to combat addiction and the associated stigma.”

Addiction advocates and organizations have embraced SSA and are very supportive of its efforts, Dr. Madson further noted, saying the excitement surrounding SSA in Hattiesburg and in Mississippi has been remarkable.

“I’m confident SSA’s efforts will cultivate an affirming culture related to those struggling with addiction or who are in recovery and can have a significant impact on the community and the state of Mississippi in relation to addiction,” he added.

Martin believes that for students and people in the community who may be struggling with addiction, be in recovery, or know someone experiencing addiction it can be empowering to see a group of students mobilizing to destigmatize substance use disorder and what it means to be in recovery.

“Changes need to be made, and we want to work toward cultivating a positive and affirming environment for those students and community members who deserve to feel supported,” Martin further noted.

USM students can get involved in the Shatterproof Student Association by following it on Instagram (@USMShatterproof) or Facebook (@USM Shatterproof Student Association) or by emailing

Students and colleges outside of USM who are interested in learning more about building a Shatterproof Student Association at their institution can email