It’s National Addictions Awareness Week!
Our aim this week (and all year long, but ESPECIALLY this week) is to raise awareness about and reduce the stigma that surrounds substance use and addiction.
Each year, National Addictions Awareness Week has a theme. This year, that theme is a “Community of Caring” – where we focus on the idea that working together as a community is what makes change happen. You’ve heard the phrase, “two heads are better than one” and we believe that a whole community of heads – and hearts- is even better!
So, let’s dive a little deeper into the topic of stigma. If stigma is an attitude, belief or behaviour that discriminates against people, then is it even possible to reduce it? And if so, how? Well, first of all, it is important for us to remember that our words matter. People with a substance use disorder often fear judgement from their friends, family, peers, and the health care system that is supposed to provide them with care and support. This leads to delays in getting help or avoiding seeking treatment all together.
Think about it: If you had a problem that you wanted to find help for, but you were surrounded by people who referred to other individuals struggling with similar issues as you using unkind words, or made comments that using drugs was “their choice” and that the situation they were in was “their fault” – would you feel comfortable being open and honest around them? Probably not.
Now, you may believe that your thoughts about substance use disorders or addictions don’t really matter all that much because you don’t have anyone close to you that is struggling with these issues. Chances are, however, you would be wrong. In fact, 1 in 10 Canadians, from all walks of life, are impacted by the use of substances. Whether you know it, or not.
Substance use disorder and addiction is a health condition just like any other, and it should be treated like one. Individuals struggling with this condition should not experience barriers when it comes to recovery, but a whopping 83% still do.
Creating a “Community of Caring” in Chatham-Kent starts with each of us. By reconsidering some of the thoughts and opinions we have about substance use disorder and addiction and choosing to change our language around the topic – we are helping to reduce stigma.
We encourage you to learn more about how you can help reduce stigma related to substance abuse by reading: Overcoming Stigma Through Language.