Stigma hurts and isolates people, and stops them from feeling able to access the help and support they need. This is James*' story.
"At a period in my life when I was opiate dependent, I went to my G.P. As I entered the small surgery, the receptionist looked up and called across the room, ‘He’s not going to give you any drugs, you know.’
"I replied that I was there about my asthma, and nothing else.
"The room was full and became utterly silent upon this exchange. I was very embarrassed and sat in the only available chair. The woman next to me turned away from me, and then reached down and picked up her handbag and placed it on the other side of her feet, as far away from me as possible.
"I heard someone laugh.
"I was very embarrassed and sat in the only available chair. The woman next to me turned away from me, and then reached down and picked up her handbag and placed it on the other side of her feet, as far away from me as possible. "
"Consequently, I stopped visiting my G.P. completely, requesting my repeat prescriptions by letter and asking my partner to pick them up for me. A few years later I was very lucky not to lose a part of my foot through gangrene, something that was picked up by my local hospital A&E at the last moment.
"Of course, it might have been picked up much earlier by my G.P. if I'd felt able to attend
The assumptions that society often has about addiction and people experiencing it can have devastating and even life-threatening consequences. The best way to support people to access the treatment that they deserve is to consider our behaviour towards people with addiction.
You may not even realise that your actions could cause someone to feel isolated and stigmatised, but try to consider why someone is ill, and stop using words that reduce them to nothing but their addiction. Instead of using terms like "addict" or assuming that people "only want drugs", see the person and hear their story in the way that they want it to be told.
Thank you to James* for sharing his story. Stigma kills, but together we can end it.
* Names have been changed.