OP/Ed: Pathways executive director offers her experience on how we can curb overdose crisis

Stigma keeps addiction under-diagnosed, under-treated and misunderstood

Daryl Meyers, Executive Director of Pathways Addictions Resource Centre offers her experience on how we as a whole society can help curb this overdose crisis:

We all know how much time has passed, we all know the stats, we all know people who have been lost to this crisis. What we don’t know is when it will end and that is the hardest stat to swallow.

What we do know is this crisis has raised the awareness of the struggle people have with substance use. What we do know is we have to create safe places for people to come forward and seek help. What we do know is we have to continually work to smash the stigma around addiction. This stigma keeps addiction under-diagnosed, under-treated, under funded and misunderstood by the majority of the population.

We need a continuum of care that embraces all of the pillars necessary for people to succeed. We cannot decriminalize drugs without providing a safe supply. We need more people on board who can prescribe that safe supply. We cannot house and feed people when they have to spend their day in illegal activity to keep from getting sick.

We need to build a continuum of connection starting with more walk-in community based treatment options. We cannot think that the basic harm reduction model of naloxone kits and overdose prevention sites will get us out of this, they too, are just one pillar.

But in order for all this to happen we need moms, dads, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends, employers, politicians and the community at large to come forward and be the voice for the person who cannot be that voice themselves. We need to educate people in our community that there is a vast invisible majority of people out there who are ashamed to come forward. They are ashamed they have let down their families, let down their friends, let down themselves.

We need to open our hearts and our arms and embrace those who struggle so deeply. They need to feel belonging, that they have value and purpose. We need to foster the well-being of the whole person and their connectedness to their self, their family and their community. We need to continue to reframe public perception of addiction and the unlimited potential of recovery. We have journey ahead of us but we must continue to link arms, put one foot in front of the other and be that army that can fight the good fight.

Maya Angelou said it best: I have learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

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