“The question is not why the addiction, but why the pain.” – Dr. Gabor Mate

What is stigma?

Many of us have faced stigma at one point or another. It’s that feeling of being stereotyped, judged or labeled for who you are or something you are doing. It hurts.

How does stigma affect people who use drugs?

People who use drugs, especially those struggling with addiction, face a lot of stigma. The stigma someone feels can be so bad that it can cause them to avoid getting help because they are afraid of judgement or getting in trouble. Stigma and judgement can cause people to hide their drug use and use drugs alone. Since the majority of overdoses in Canada happen when people are alone, reducing stigma can actually save lives.

A big reason for this stigma is that people think addiction is a choice, and that people can stop using drugs if they wanted to. Some people try drugs or use them occasionally. Others use them to try and cope with trauma or pain, which can often make the trauma and pain worse. No matter the reason no one chooses to become addicted. Addiction makes it hard for you to stop using drugs, even when it’s hurting you or others around you.

Unfortunately, not enough people know that addiction is not a choice but a treatable medical condition that affects your brain. Recovery looks different for everyone, but recovery is possible with the right support!

Why should we learn about stigma and do our part to reduce it?

Reducing stigma, even by changing the way you talk about people who use drugs, can make people feel safer to reach out for help.

Ending stigma can seem like a really big task, but there are steps you can take to help make a big difference in someone’s life!

You could be the reason a friend or family member reaches out for help.

Are you or someone you care about struggling with problematic substance use?

Help is available – click below for Problematic Substance Use Resources.

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