Just Say Know: Stigma

Just Say Know: Stigma

Written by Guest Blogger Karen Walker, Peer Education Intern

  • How has our society come to stigmatize drug use and drug users?
  • How and why does stigma prevent people from seeking help?

Stigma is the belief that a certain attribute makes an individual unacceptable, despite the presence of other positive qualities. It is a driving force behind continued drug prohibition. Our drug policy and education have created the attitude that drug users are both to be feared and blamed for issues in society.

In reality, the vast majority of drug users are fully functioning members of society. Those who fall into problematic use need access to help and support more than anything. Unfortunately, the negative attitude and discrimination against drug users persists in the media, amongst educators, law enforcement, health professionals, and politicians.

Illicit drug use is something that people hide for fear of legal, social, and professional repercussions. Since our culture is based on bias and discrimination toward certain drug users, this community is prevented from obtaining resources and exercising their rights. Drug users have been denied the right to health and safety information, and groups are denied funding for research on illicit drugs, thus prohibiting the discovery of these substances’ potential medical value. Treatment options are limited and expensive, making professional rehabilitation unavailable to many. A supportive environment is necessary and powerful for those seeking care because much of society views drug users as hopeless, dangerous, and deserving of punishment.

SSDP Peer Education hopes to defeat this stigma by framing drug use in the context of drug policy. This approach can help people open up to discussions that they had not previously considered. Students can relate their own experiences to these discussions and find the intersecting ideologies between drug policy reform and other movements. The Peer Education program can set the stage for a large-scale change of perspective and for eliminating stigma toward drug users at a campus level.

You can get 10 points for responding to the Reflection Questions from this Training Curriculum module.

Check out ssdp.org/justsayknow for more information on SSDP Peer Education!

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