Addiction: no shame and no blame

It’s absolutely crucial to fight the stigma

Last week The Spotlight received an email from a reader who genuinely wanted to know how the newspaper would approach and “clean up” the drug crisis faced by our community and all of North America, if we had the means and power.

How do you answer that?

In less than a year, Princeton has experienced six deaths attributed to Fentanyl.

There have been two overdoses here so far in 2018.

Last week a warning was issued by Interior Health that nine deaths occurred within its boundaries in just five days.

How do you answer that?

It’s not as easy as saying: well the police need to do something.

The police are trying.

Arrests for drug trafficking were made in 2017 in Princeton, but these people are like streetcars.

You just get rid of one, and there is another along in fifteen minutes. One thing people can do to help is to continue to call RCMP with tips and information about suspected drug dealers.

The more calls police receive, the easier it is for them to build a case for a warrant to search a given property.

Last year the Town of Princeton held a Fentanyl forum, to share information between residents and a panel of law enforcement and medical experts.

This resulted in a valuable conversation – however given the severity of the crisis the turnout was disappointing. It is probably time to get those authorities together again and for a more pointed discussion.

The pathways to help in this small town need to be clearer and quicker. We need greater resources for counseling and better access to rehab facilities.

It is also time to start talking about establishing a local supervised injection site, and consider the broader question of legalization in order to monitor and control drug use in a safe environment, while hopefully transitioning people with addiction into treatment and recovery. We need to address stigma surrounding addiction and mental health. That can start right now.

Typically – and it happened when The Spotlight posted stories last week about recent overdoses – a small segment of the community will respond with hate.

Some people use the most hurtful and disparaging terms to characterize drug users – who are among our most vulnerable residents, and who step from every walk of life, every kind of family and every profession.

There is shame. There is blame. And it’s disgusting.

When those comments occur on the newspaper’s website or Facebook page, we do our best to delete them immediately. It is a depressing commentary that someone needs to monitor these stories essentially 24-7 in order to protect others from ignorance.

Little better are the seemingly endless online debates about whether or not addiction is a disease or a choice.

(Sure. Every little boy or girl at some point thinks: I want to be addicted to drugs when I grow up.) It ought to be enough to understand addiction is a medical problem, and needs to be regarded as such.

According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, mental health and substance use problems are sometimes genetic or biological, they sometimes fall out of experience – stressful situations, violence and injustice. And sometimes, these experts say, there is no way of telling.

The Centre also says that stigma towards people with addiction and mental health problems results directly in patients avoiding treatment.

It’s part of the problem.

Part of the solution is to get educated, speak out against hurtful comments, and have compassion.

That is how we answer that. -AD

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