Support Not Stigma

What is IOAD?

“International Overdose Awareness Day is a global event held on 31 August each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma connected to drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that overdose death is preventable. Thousands of people die each year from drug overdose. They come from all walks of life.”

What is Support Not Stigma?

The WGDS has hosted a Stop The Stigma rally in Guelph for the last four years. This year, the Drug Strategy is partnering with Overdose Awareness Day to share a message of Support Not Stigma.  We are working together to raise awareness and advocate for the needs of people who experience addiction in Guelph and Wellington County.  Substance use is a health issue not a criminal one.

What is happening on Aug 31, 2020?

This year Overdose Awareness Day falls on Monday, Aug 31.  In Guelph and Wellington County, we are inviting EVERYONE to wear a Support Not Stigma T-shirt on Aug 31.  We are inviting our community  to stand up and offer their support to people who experience substance use issues.

Shame and judgement are aspects of stigma that push substance use underground.  When these attitudes are internalized, they leave people who struggle with substance use feeling unworthy. Stigma, shame and judgment are not helpful to people who experience substance use challenges.

As a society, we legalize some substances and not others.  People who are addicted to substances that are not legal turn to the unregulated market to purchase the substances they need.  The unregulated drug supply has no quality control. Toxic substances and toxic doses of substances are sold on the black market, typically without the buyer’s knowledge.  Overdose Awareness Day marks the deaths of community members who have lost their lives as a result of drug poisoning.  It is an occasion to advocate for support not stigma in addressing addiction.

Safe supply refers to the advocacy process that is underway to ensure that people who use drugs receive pharmacological grade substances so that they are not exposed to toxic substances purchased from the unregulated market.

Why is the Support not Stigma t-shirt campaign is so important:

Stigma (negative attitudes or beliefs) has a major impact on the quality of life of people who use drugs, people who are in recovery and their friends and family.

 What is stigma?

Stigma is negative attitudes and beliefs about a group of people due to their circumstances in life. It includes discrimination, prejudice, judging, labeling, isolating and stereotyping.

 Why does stigma matter?

Stigma matters because it can prevent people from getting help and feeling a sense of belonging and value. Stigma creates barriers to accessing important health and social services and increases isolation and struggle. Stigma happens at all levels of society – individual, organizational and societal.

Addiction is highly stigmatized and people who experience addiction are seen as being weak or incompetent instead of being seen as suffering from a complex health condition.

Because of stigma against substance use, medical personnel do not receive adequate education about his topic. Services for addiction and substance use disorders are underfunded because of stigma. We need to change this attitude so that people who experience substance use challenges receive support, not stigma!

What can you do to minimize the negative impact?

How we talk about substance use matters. We can help reduce stigma by choosing our words carefully, and start talking about substance use. This change may seem small, but you never know who is listening and who may be impacted by your words.

How we talk about drug use matters

As Canadians, we need to talk openly, respectfully and compassionately. We can also:

  • speak to the person first, before we talk about their substance use
  • avoid using slang and derogatory language such as “addict” and “junkie”
  • use language that expresses care and concern, rather than judgement
  • use language that acknowledges and promotes the fact that recovery from substance use disorders is possible
  • speak up when we hear or witness someone being treated, or spoken to or about, in a disrespectful manner

What is the impact of experiencing stigma?

  • fear
  • anger
  • blame
  • shame
  • rejection
  • hopelessness
  • grief
  • distress
  • suicide
  • isolation
  • loneliness
  • loss of control

 You can help end stigma by:

  • learning about substance use disorders and remembering that substance use disorders are a health condition, deserving of care and treatment just like any other
  • being respectful, compassionate and caring to those who use drugs
  • not judging someone who uses drugs, as you may not know the whole story of their journey
  • being open minded and not letting opinions or assumptions colour the way we think of someone
  • changing the way we talk about drug use, and choosing our words carefully
  • change can start by simply being aware of the way we talk and act towards people who use drugs.