Today I will be talking, again, about something that I do not experience personally, but I see and hear about it a lot, specifically, the opioid crisis and drug use. I feel that there is a lot of stigma about drug users, and it is sad in my opinion because instead of getting help, they feel like they have to hide and never get the help they need. In my hometown, there is a lot of drug abuse. In fact, when you enter the county off of the bay bridge, there is a sign that is updated with the number of overdoses and deaths during the year so far. I know many people who do/did drugs, and many have died from overdoses. I think there is a lot of cognitive dissonance in relation to drug abuse/use. What I mean by this is when people talk about drug users, they usually refer to them as worthless people who are either low class or a minority, but when people find out it is a family member that is addicted to drugs they typically are more forgiving and think it is an addiction problem. I have always been a little bit confused by this because I feel like anyone can be susceptible to becoming addicted to drugs. I also find it very odd that it seems like it is generally accepted that anyone can become an alcoholic regardless of race, sex, or economic status, but not drugs. I believe that this topic definitely relates to diversity and inclusion because when people bring up drug abuse, there are a lot of stereotypes that follow. It is a vicious cycle because some minorities are more prone to be lower income status because of the lack of inclusivity, which leads people to believe they are more likely to become a drug addict. I think this way of thinking is sad. I found a paper entitled “Opioid Crisis: No Easy Fix to Its Social and Economic Determinants” by Dasgupta et al. and it discusses things that put people at risk for opioid abuse. It was very interesting to me because it states that middle-aged whites without a college degree are the ones that experience a lot of drug related mortality. It also suggested that there are factors that do make you at risk such as environment in which you live/grew up and socioeconomic status. I think that these factors are important to consider in order to prevent our minds from stereotyping because any race, religion, sex, gender, etc. can experience these conditions that are considered to make you at risk for drug abuse.
I think there are a lot of resources out there for preventing drug use and abuse. I found this website from the National institute on drug abuse (https://www.drugabuse.gov/drugs-abuse/opioids/opioid-overdose-crisis). The website gives information on drug abuse such as statistics and ways to combat it. I found another website from the US dept. of Health and Human Services (https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/). This website has information and videos of family members or drug users themselves sharing their journey through addiction. Interestingly, out of the 5 videos, 3 are white families that have dealt with the struggle of knowing or being a drug user. I think looking at these resources if very important for everyone in society even if you don’t personally struggle with this issue because it helps to be informed on the stats and information to combat stereotyping. In regard to scholarship that we have learned, I am sure stereotypes and microaggressions apply to this topic. Like I mentioned above, people have a stereotype about what a drug user looks like or who could be a drug user. Microaggressions occur sometimes when people say things like “Are you on drugs” when people do or say something stupid. Of course, using drugs is not great, but the way people say things can be hurtful and cause a drug user to hide the fact that they are using until it is too late. Like the article I mentioned above, there are numerous studies about drug use and abuse. You can find a lot of information about it and addiction being a disease but people still have stereotypes and stigmas against drug users.
I think a proper understanding is missing. Unless you are an addict, I don’t think you can understand and unless you personally know people who are addicts it is easy to disconnect and be biased and racist about who you believe use drugs. I also think doctors are part of the problem because they will prescribe these drugs as an easy solution. I think medicine needs to be careful with drug distribution. Some drugs are very helpful, but prescriptions should not be for 2 months of a drug you only need for 2 weeks. With addictive drugs, I think more educational material should be given to patients before actually receiving the prescription. I understand people need to relieve pain, but when there are other options that do not require long term opioid use, I think that option would be helpful to combat this problem. I also think education in school is missing because although I grew up in a drug ridden community, we didn’t talk much about it. I think if kids were better educated that this can impact anyone, they would take the issue more seriously and not stereotype it. I think it is also important to address how drug addicts are treated. Society treats them as criminals and sometimes it is hard for them to get good help. Overall, I think compassion and understanding is missing and I think better education would be very beneficial.
I think the implications of lack of inclusivity of drug users can be monumental. Instead of having stereotypes, we could be helping these people. I think education and prevention can have a huge impact on the number of overdose related deaths. It is hard to imagine a family member going through the struggle of drug addiction, but if we are aware of signs it will be easier to identify and solve the problem. I think if we try to eliminate the stereotypes against drug users or who we think are/will be drug users, it will be beneficial for everyone because loved ones will not feel ashamed and they may seek help that could save their life. Especially at a younger age, peer pressure and stereotyping can have a huge impact on actions and if we can prevent use in the first place, we may be able to save a lot of people from addiction.
Dasgupta N, Beletsky L, Ciccarone D. Opioid Crisis: No Easy Fix to Its Social and Economic Determinants. Am J Public Health. 2018;108(2):182–186. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2017.304187