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Awareness campaign aims to address stigma around drug use

The Community Drug Strategy for North Bay and Area has begun a campaign that focuses on addressing the stigmas surrounding drug use.

Katharine O’Connell, a member of the Community Drug Strategy, says that they want to focus on addressing the stereotypes surrounding drug use.

“It’s one piece of the puzzle that we’re hoping will help shift mindsets when it comes to drug use,” she said.

The Community Drug Strategy will be running an awareness campaign for the next two months using social media and local advertising. O’Connell says that part of the goal for the campaign is to broaden people’s perception of who uses drugs.

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“We want people to think about who can be impacted by drug use. It could be your neighbour, coworker, relative, friend, doctors, hunters, students, educators – it could be anyone,” she explained.

“There is a lot of stigma around drug use. People are afraid to talk to people who use drugs or there are societal fears of drugs themselves,” O’Connell continued. “We know the criminalization of drugs contributes to the stigma. There’s also the idea that people who use drugs are to blame for their actions and this really fails to recognize the social structures that contribute to drug use in the first place.”

O’Connell says that the ramifications of the stigmas affect those who are sometimes the most in need.

“That can have a lot of impact on people. It could discourage them from calling 911, or maybe they’re afraid to access services or maybe they hide their drug use. We know it has a huge impact on those who use drugs,” she noted.

The stigmatization of drug use is not a new issue for public health, but O’Connell says that its importance has increased in recent years.

“We’ve always tried to address stigmas in different ways. It’s just been made more of a priority because we’re seeing a lot more of it. It’s come to the forefront that this is a big issue. It’s always been there but it’s just a shift in focus for our work plan,” she said.

The campaign, officially named “Let’s work together to: Stop the shame. Stop the blame. Stop the stigma” also encourages the use of the hashtag #stopstigmanorth throughout the two-month campaign.

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