It's not as though this is an unheard of problem. It rears it's ugly head in the media and communities on a regular basis. You'll most certainly hear all about it when addiction treatment centres and methadone clinics attempt to open a new clinic in a 'nice neighbourhood'. You'll find it alive and well at hospitals and healthcare facilities, where the general sentiment towards addicts seems to be one of disgust. Ask you neighbours or community members if they'd like to live right beside a known addict, drug user or methadone clinic, and I'm willing the bet the resounding response will be a big fat NO. This is not news. Rather than just complaining or sharing my personal first hand accounts, I thought I'd share some actual research, statistics and cold hard facts that shows the stigma of the addict is a very widespread issue.
For the purpose of this article, I'll be referring to definitions, facts and statistics from the website http://www.drugpolicy.org - I recommend checking out the site for more information, there's plenty of great stuff to sift through. Spread the awareness!
So what exactly is 'stigma'?
"Stigma is defined as the experience of being 'deeply discredited' or marked due to ones 'undesired differentness'. To be stigmatized is to be held in contempt, shunned, or rendered socially invisible because of a socially disapproved status"
"No physical or psychiatric condition is more associated with social disapproval and discrimination than substance dependence"
"According to research, the majority of healthcare professionals hold negative, stereotyped views of people who use illicit drugs. Stigma is a major factor preventing individuals from seeking and completing addiction treatment and from utilizing harm reduction services such as syringe access programs".
So how do change these stigmas? Is it even possible to change such widespread negatives views? Changing the way we refer to those struggling with addiction is one place to start. Rather than calling derogatory and discriminatory names often used to describe the drug user in a negative light, focus on the person.
"The way we talk about drugs and the people who use them can create or uphold stigma. Words like ‘crackhead,’ ‘junkie’ and ‘pillhead’ dehumanize a person who may be struggling with addiction. Focus on the whole person, not a behaviour".
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