Treating people who use drugs with dignity



Submitted by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit

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

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, a public health nurse with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit. “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. This 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.

“And 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 the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (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. 

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  1. All human beings (and indeed, all living things) should be treated with kindness and courtesy. It is part of our gratitude for the gift of our own circumstances. We can always remember that others have not been so fortunate. Who among us has had such terrible circumstances as the Christian mother of five children in the Middle East who has never been permitted to go school? She was recently acquitted of “heresy” (for which she was under an execution order) but is still under death threats and seeking asylum in other countries. Those who are caught up in the destructive cycle of drug abuse should be treated with love and encouragement to develop into the kind of people who reflect the love and light of the God who made them.

  2. Firstly, shouldn’t SMOS be SMDS? I wasn’t aware that all drugs were opioids, or even that abuse of pain-killers constituted a majority of drug abuse. Secondly, why separate drug abuse from mental health disabilities? The two occur most often concurrently; with the latter usually precipitating the former. And finally, I am reasonably certain that Bill 47 will remove any protection from workers with mental health/drug addiction issues.

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