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We should stop judging junkies

24th August 2010

Writing in The Guardian, Diane Taylor suggests that while treatment can help problematic drug users, it will fail unless we stop judging them and offer kindness and empathy instead.

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Few people truly know what the life of a drug addict is really like because the majority of the population does not meet them.

A consequence of this lack of knowledge is stigma and prejudice.

A UK drugs policy commission, Sinning and Sinned Against: the Stigmatisation of Problem Drug Users, confirms this. But the stigma is so often based on misunderstanding.

Drug use can be a result of wider issues such as abuse or social exclusion with many addicts self-medicating to blot out their pain.

For those who have never experienced this, it is easy to label drug users as “undeserving.”

Some drug users may stop by taking advantage of treatments, though statistics do not show those who relapse after trying.

But it is important to remember that many drug users are able and capable and if offered the right sort of support, can make a contribution to society.

This means emotional, as well as practical, support, including housing and employment opportunities, rather than a three-line whip to "get clean or else".

However, the treatment will never truly work unless it is offered to problematic drug users with kindness, support, empathy and an absence of judgmentalism.

Many people stop using drugs simply because something better comes along, though often drug users feel there is nothing better.

The government needs to realise there is no quick and if it really wants to help drug users, it must look beyond drug use.

 

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