Harm Reduction

Contact(s)

See The Person. Stop Stigma. – Addiction Is Not A Lifestyle Choice.

Why some people who use substances become addicted

All individuals are at some risk of developing an addiction. This includes individuals who utilize prescription drugs and those that use drugs recreationally. The reasons why individuals use substances is complex. Broad social, economic and environmental factors influence why someone initially and continues to use drugs. These factors are called the social determinants of health. Education, employment/poor working conditions and housing, social environment (e.g., safe neighborhood, family violence), access to social support networks and health services; and personal factors such as gender, personal skills (e.g., resiliency), ethnic background and biology/genetics all play a role in substance use and addictions.These determinants of health can be protective factors against substance use and they can also be risk factors to substance use and addiction. It is important to remember that, while the social determinants of health may contribute to addiction and substance use, there is no single set of factors that represents the complex causes of addiction. Harm reduction services recognize that not all individuals are ready or willing to give up substance and help reduce harm/exposure of individuals who are using substances to infectious disease. 

See The Person. Stop Stigma.

No one chooses addiction. People who use drugs come from all walks of life - they are parents, children, friends, co-workers and neighbours. Many people with substance use disorders have obstacles getting the support and services they need, because of the stigma that surrounds addiction.

Stigma is negative attitudes and beliefs about a group of people due to their behaviours or circumstances in life. It includes discrimination, prejudice, judging, labelling, excluding and stereotyping. Fear and misunderstanding often lead to stigma against people who use drugs, who are regularly blamed for their inability to stop using. This further contributes to feelings of hopelessness, shame and isolation. Stigma increases the likelihood that a person will hide their substance use from others, use alone or in an unsafe way, and avoid seeking help from others, even when they want to.

Stigma impacts people with substance use disorders, as well as their family members, peers, service providers and our entire community. By working together to stop stigma, we can build a healthier and more caring community.

Message For Health Care/Service Providers

Health care and service providers can be the first point of contact for individuals who use substances and it is important to remember that there can be negative implications from drug related stigma that can affect whether an individual seeks help in the future (anticipation of mistreatment, distrust, stereotypes and assumptions, self worth). When health care and service providers work to reduce stigma, we are building a healthier and more caring community. Substance use is not a lifestyle choice. Everyone deserves to be seen for who they are and not their addiction. It is stigmatizing when people assume that all people who use drugs are the same.

Listen to the videos around why it is important to build a therapeutic relationship with your clients, meet your clients where they are at and have resources on hand to help your clients navigate their current situation.

Addiction Is Not A Lifestyle Choice

Substance use is only a part of a person’s larger picture. It is important for everyone in our community that we choose to see the person and not simply their addiction.

Addiction is a health issue, not a character flaw. It is simply not a matter of will power or having a desire to stop. A substance use disorder is a medical condition diagnosed under the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM-5 (CAMH). It causes changes in the brain and body that make it very hard to stop using a substance, regardless of the harm it causes to the person or to others around them. People with substance use disorders deserve to be treated with the same dignity, care and respect that is given to others living with a health condition or disorder such as cancer, heart disease or diabetes. 

Take Action to Stop Stigma

There are actions you can take to stop stigma. Learn what you can do to make a difference to someone and help build a healthier, more caring community.

Choose compassion

  • Acknowledge a person as a human being who should be treated with dignity, care and respect.
  • See a person for who they are and what they can be, and not by what drugs they use.
  • Recognize that your own experiences, or lack of experiences, should not be used to make assumptions or judgements about another person’s life.
  • Give support to the person and remember to extend support to their family members and loved ones. Listen to their stories, be there for them when they need you, and acknowledge how hard the situation may be for them.
  • Use person-first language. Avoid using hurtful labels such as drug abuse or drug user; replace with the terms substance use and a person with a substance use disorder.
  • Accept a person’s situation and avoid judgement. Acknowledge what the person is going through, the difficulty to disclose addiction, and avoid passing blame.
  • Replace negative assumptions with expressions of care and concern. 
  • Listen and avoid lecturing. Allow space and time for a person to share their story. Give them your full attention and stop yourself from jumping in. Never force someone to share their story if they aren’t ready or willing.
  • Ask how you can support a person instead of coming to your own conclusions and solutions. It could be a glass of water, company to sit with, or helping them get the support they need at that moment.
  • Educate yourself about addiction, harm reduction and substance use disorders.
  • Get trained to use Naloxone which can reverse an opioid overdose and save a life. Connect with ConnexOntario.
  • Help others become more aware by passing on facts and challenge stereotypes.

Choose your words carefully

  • Language matters. The words you use to discuss health and relationships can have a powerful impact on your conversations with and about the people who access services.
  • Use person-first language. Avoid using hurtful labels such as drug abuse or drug user; replace with the terms substance use and a person with a substance use disorder.
  • Accept a person’s situation and avoid judgement. Acknowledge what the person is going through, the difficulty to disclose addiction, and avoid passing blame.
  • Replace negative assumptions with expressions of care and concern. 
  • Listen and avoid lecturing. Allow space and time for a person to share their story. Give them your full attention and stop yourself from jumping in. Never force someone to share their story if they aren’t ready or willing.
  • Ask how you can support a person instead of coming to your own conclusions and solutions. It could be a glass of water, company to sit with, or helping them get the support they need at that moment.

Choose to get involved

North Bay

345 Oak Street West
705-474-1400

Parry Sound

70 Joseph Street Unit #302
705-746-5801

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)
1-800-563-2808