British Columbia THE FENTANYL FIX

B.C. health minister says neither side of the drug debate should be stigmatized

Open CBC forum explores solutions to B.C.'s overdose crisis

Tamara Baluja - CBC News

February 03, 2017

Terry Lake says one cannot dismiss those who say that people who use drugs do not deserve help. (CBC)

After every story CBC does on fentanyl and the overdose crisis in B.C., we get an overwhelming number of audience emails and comments.

Some are sympathetic to the addict but a substantial number, like this one, are not. 

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"If you're stupid enough to do drugs, regardless of what your drug of choice is, and your bad choice leads to an overdose and potentially death, you deserve what you get," said an email from one commenter.

"Asking responsible members of society to pay more in taxes for health care to keep these unfortunate souls alive is absolutely ridiculous. Has anyone considered that this epidemic is just nature's way of eliminating the walking stupid who share our air space?"

Such comments are a major part of the uphill battle against the social stigmatization addicts face when trying to seek treatment, help and resources. 

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, who was part of a panel at a special CBC Vancouver forum on solutions to the fentanyl problem, said he's seen similar stigma in his own family life. 

His sister struggles with chronic pain, he said, adding "there's stigma attached to chronic pain and there's moralistic judgments people make about those who suffer from it."

However, Lake also said one cannot simply dismiss the views of people who think those who use drugs do not deserve our help.

"We have to build up the case and bring people along with these ideas, build up the evidence," he said. 

"We talk about stigmatizing drug users. The people who wrote those emails, we can't stigmatize them either. We have to consider the fact that every British Columbian has the right to an opinion and we can't discount that."

CBC Vancouver hosted a panel discussion on solutions to B.C.'s fentanyl problem. (CBC)

Monica, who is in long term recovery, also spoke at the forum, saying she believes stigma around addiction is very much present. 

"I believe the people who wrote those emails have a lack of understanding and knowledge of the disease of addiction," she said. 

"I believe every life matters. Recovery is a reality. I believe we're on the forefront of getting the help we need."

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