Treating people who use drugs with dignity

Stereotypes about people who use drugs are making it more difficult to provide treatment and prevent overdose, says the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS).

In a campaign running through the fall, the coalition hopes to shift thinking to create greater understanding and respect for people who use drugs, whether prescription or illicit.

“Similar to what occurs with mental health, people tend to hide their use of drugs to avoid the stigma that would be attached to them,” said Claudia Swoboda-Geen, Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit public health nurse. “For those using drugs, hiding their use can prevent them from seeking treatment out of fear of being shamed, or losing their jobs.”

The prevailing image of people who use drugs revolves around people who are marginalized and experiencing homelessness. It is a portion of the population of people with addiction, but Swoboda-Geen stressed that it can happen to anyone, regardless of their social or economic status.

“Regardless of their social or economic status, they all need to be treated with respect by family, friends, employers, service providers, and by society as a whole,” she said. “Greater acceptance will allow those people to come forward to seek help when they want and need it.”

This campaign is a collaboration between the health unit and SMOS, a collective comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing opioid harms in Simcoe and Muskoka.

More information on the campaign can be found at or by calling Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Jair Lázaro photo

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