Stigma makes it hard to see the real person underneath the addiction. Let’s break the cycle.
National Addictions Awareness Week sparks an annual conversation about the harm caused by substance use disorder and addiction in Canada. But as dangerous as addiction is, stigma is the silent killer that keeps people from getting the help they need.
As Canada’s trusted care provider for substance use disorder and addictions, our dedicated teams are on the front lines across the country every day giving people the support they need on their journey to wellness. But even the best health care can only do so much to break the cycle of addiction. The fact is, we all have a role to play in unravelling the misinformation and misconceptions around substance use and eliminating dehumanizing labels forced upon people experiencing addiction.
Fear is fueling Canada’s overdose crisis
It’s been proven that, when people face stigma around their addiction, they often avoid seeking the care they need to get back on track. Unfortunately, many doctors don’t want to work with people struggling with substance use, creating a barrier to care that can put someone at serious risk of overdose or death. In fact, a recent study showed only 4% of primary care physicians in Ontario would take on a new patient with opioid use disorder.
Whether it’s the fear of burning bridges with family, losing their job or ending an intimate relationship, far too many Canadians are suffering in silence due to the dark cloud of stigma hanging over their heads. And, when people with addiction feel like they have nowhere to turn, overdose becomes an even bigger (and all-too-often fatal) threat.
Take the pledge. Stop the stigma.
While one person can’t change the way society as a whole views addiction, there are small things we can all do to make our communities safer for people who use drugs.
This year, pledge to take these 3 simple (but powerful) actions:
Watch Your Language
Avoid using words that reinforce negative stereotypes.
Learn The Facts
Stigma comes from lack of education on the truth.
Show You Care
One conversation can save a life.
1. Watch your language
Avoid using words that reinforce negative stereotypes around addiction and create labels that take away from the person underneath. And correct others when you hear them being used.
The most common words to avoid are:
These words put the focus on the addiction, rather than the person.
- Person with/experiencing addiction
- Person who uses drugs
It’s a small change, but makes all the difference to the person on the receiving end of the words.
2. Learn the facts
Stigma comes from lack of education on the truth. There are many trustworthy sources of information on addiction and substance use disorder. Here are a few to get you started:
- Signs of an Opioid Overdose and What to Do When It Happens
- About opioid use treatment
- Government of Canada
- Canadian Mental Health Association
- Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction
3. Show you care
If you suspect someone you know is experiencing addiction, reach out and let them know it’s safe to talk to you about it. One conversation can save a life.
Whether you need help yourself, or are concerned about someone else, we’re with you all the way.
Spread the word on social media
We’ve created a set of images you can share on social media to break down stigma surrounding substance use and addiction and show your support for National Addictions Awareness Week.
Feel free to share them with your own message about ending stigma!
Tag CATC on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn so we can like and re-share!