I believe everyone reading your front page article about the young mother living with a terminal cancer prognosis would have responded with compassion, as I did. I was inspired by this woman’s courage and hope, as well as with the possibilities presented when friends and community gather to raise funds to support her tremendous treatment costs. My letter to you today is not about this story and I have no intention of taking away from it.
What struck me about your article was the tone of the comment, “we’re helping people like addicts on the street get treatment” which not only suggests that addicts are less worthy of treatment, it leads readers to believe that treatment is available.
While short-term solutions such as take-home naloxone kits are unquestionably saving lives, B.C. has yet to establish a treatment and recovery system for people living with addictions. Stigma and marginalization have resulted in the general misunderstanding that addiction is a choice. Substance use disorder is recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a mental illness. In most cases it starts as a way to cope with physical or emotional pain. The tragic story about addiction is that it then ensnares people into a lifestyle of poverty and crime simply because it is the only way they can survive when there is no system in place to help them.
I look forward to the day when a front page story about a young woman addicted to heroin will generate the same kind of compassion and understanding given to anyone who is suffering.