Episode 27

Opiates Addiction and Providing Support - Part 2


June 6th, 2019

19 mins 50 secs

Season 1

Your Hosts

About this Episode

They can feel marginalized; feel trapped in their homes, avoid social contacts and miss opportunities to find work because of the everyday prejudices which create a host of obstacles for those trying to recover from drug addictions. Offers of work or housing are commonly withdrawn when it becomes known that the recipient has had a serious drug problem, even if they have stopped using. Yet employment and stable accommodation are two of the most important factors for helping people overcome dependence and stay off drugs. Anything that makes these harder to access will worsen drug problems. To a certain extent, these attitudes reflect how dependence is portrayed in the media. On TV, people with drug addictions tend to be shown as “junkies”, sex trade workers, or criminals - not as people with a health problem that can be addressed. The stigma of drug dependence will only be overcome if it is acknowledged and confronted directly by those who work in the helping fields and by society at large. For family members too, there is a fear of being associated with the shame of addiction, and family members may avoid situations that could lead to them being identified as the relative of a drug user, even at risk to their own well-being. In this video presentation, Dennis Long, Executive Director of Breakaway Addiction Services in Toronto, has viewers examine their own assumptions and bias towards those with drug addictions. He explains how barriers can be broken and support for those with drug additions can bring positive results when an accepting, non-judgemental environment is established. Dennis Long dispels some common myths about drug addiction. He provides helpful strategies for talking with distress centre callers regarding issues of addiction and outlines several resources available to help support individuals and their families who are trying to deal with drug addictions. Glossary Marginalization: to put or keep (someone) in a powerless or unimportant position within a society or group. The process whereby something or someone is pushed to the edge of a group and accorded lesser importance. This is predominantly a social phenomenon by which a minority or sub-group is excluded, and their needs or desires ignored. Stigmatize: to describe or regard (something, such as a characteristic or group of people) in a way that shows strong disapproval or hold with a negative attitude or prejudice Questions for Further Consideration Have you ever stopped to think about why people with drug addictions are looked upon with discrimination? Consider what effect this stigma and stereotyping can have on the individual. Prejudice and discrimination exclude people with substance use problems from activities that are open to other people. This limits people's ability to: get and keep a job, get and keep a safe place to live, get health care (including treatment for substance use and mental health problems) and other support, be accepted by their family, friends and community, find and make friends or have other long-term relationships, and take part in social activities. Prejudice and discrimination often become internalized by people with substance use problems. This leads them to believe the negative things that other people and the media say about them (self-stigma) and also to have lower self-esteem because they feel guilt and shame. Prejudice and discrimination contribute to people with substance use problems keeping their problems a secret. As a result, they avoid getting the help they need and substance use problems are less likely to decrease or go away. As a distress/crisis line call responder, what can you do to help reduce prejudice and discrimination against people with substance use problems? Know the facts - Educate yourself about substance use; learn the facts and dispel myths that you and others may have regarding drug use and addiction; find opportunities to pass on facts to others. Be aware of your own attitudes and behaviour; we’ve all grown up with prejudices and judgmental thinking, which are passed on by society and reinforced by family, friends and the media, but we can change the way we think—and see people as unique human beings, not as labels or stereotypes. Choose your words carefully - the way we speak can affect the way other people think and speak. Use accurate and sensitive words when talking about people with substance use problems. For example, speak about “a person with a drug addiction” rather than “an addict”. How can a distress/crisis line worker make sure they are being supportive on the phone lines? One way to be supportive is to stay positive when speaking with callers on the distress line. People with substance use problems make valuable contributions to society; their health problems are just one part of who they are. Treat all people with dignity and respect and encourage their efforts to seek help and to get well. Listen carefully to determine the reason for the call and avoid making assumptions when trying to offer assistance.