Tackling Extreme Prejudice Against Drug Addicts Need To Be Addressed To Drive Effective Rehabilitation Says New Report
The junk of society - dangerous, unpredictable and, crucially, only having themselves to blame is how society thinks of drug users and former users. The extreme stigma attached to drug addiction represents a massive obstacle to rehabilitation and recovery; hindering access to treatment, securing work and housing and rejoining society, and lasting for very long periods of time - a new evidence review published today by the UK Drug Policy Commission reveals
‘Sinning & Sinned Against: The Stigmatisation of Problem Drug Users’ by Charlie Lloyd is the first instalment of a four part research study, supported by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation with additional funding from the Scottish Drug Recovery Consortium, and led by Professor Colin Blakemore (Professor of Neuroscience, Oxford University and UKDPC Commissioner), that asks why so much stigma is attached to drug addiction, how it may prevent social reintegration and whether society is ready for a shift towards a more compassionate approach, geared more towards care than punishment?
The stigma project follows an earlier UKDPC study ‘Working towards recovery’ (hXXp://www.ukdpc.org.uk/publications.shtml#Employment_report) that found that two thirds of employers said they would refuse to employ a former heroin or crack user, even if they were otherwise suitable for the job.
When the coalition government is signalling a significant shift in drug policy towards a more abstinence-based approach to treatment, and proposals are being put forward to withdraw benefits from drug users who don’t access treatment, the Commission says that tackling the extreme prejudice about addiction in society will be essential if the new government is to succeed in getting people recovering from drug dependency off benefits, back into work and playing a full role in society.
Author of the report Charlie Lloyd said: “There is no getting away from the fact that our current society is none too keen on drug users, and even former users, but such attitudes betray a lack of understanding about the nature of addiction which is having many profound effects. Use of heroin and crack, in particular, can be seen to come with a ‘stigma life sentence’ which is a crucial barrier to recovery and rejoining society. One way of moving towards greater compassion might be to learn lessons from the USA where every September the Governor of the State California (Arnold Schwarzenegger) holds a ‘recovery month’ to educate the public about addiction and the potential for people to overcome their drug problems.“
Lead Commissioner for the stigma project, Professor Colin Blakemore adds: ’Junkie’ and ‘addict’ have become pejorative shorthand for perceived social decay, conveying a sense of anxiety out or proportion to reality, but such hostile attitudes only add to the barriers of escape from drug dependence. When drug use is so common in our society we need to inform the public about the true nature of addiction so that addiction is no longer a lifelong handicap.
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Tackling Extreme Prejudice Against Drug Addicts Need To Be Addressed To Drive Effecti