Drug Recovery Hindered by Stigma
Drug users should not be regarded as 'addicts' or 'junkies', as this reinforces the extreme stigma attached to drug misuse and may harm patients' rehabilitation and recovery, experts claim. A review by the UK Drug Policy Commission (UKDPC) found that society tends to view current and former drug users as being dangerous, unpredictable, and only having themselves to blame.
Experts say that this type of stigma hinders users' access to treatment and reduces their chances of securing work and housing.
Charlie Lloyd, who authored the latest 'Sinning & Sinned Against: The Stigmatisation of Problem Drug Users' report, believes that the coalition government must tackle these extreme prejudices if it is to succeed in getting former drug users off benefits and back into work.
The University of York senior lecturer 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.
"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."
Professor Colin Blakemore, professor of neuroscience at Oxford University and UKDPC commissioner, added that terms such as 'junkie' and 'addict' have become "pejorative shorthand for perceived social decay".
"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," he argued.
On Monday, crime prevention minister James Brokenshire indicated that the coalition government wants to move the focus away from reducing the harm caused by drugs and concentrate instead on getting users off drugs. He claimed: "We need a new approach and need to be more ambitious. More focus on a pathway to recovery, so users are free of addiction and can contribute to society."