People use drugs…

During… [the] tragic opioid crisis, many have written some variation of the sentence, “The war on drugs has failed.” It’s true. Decriminalizing drug use is required to solve this problem. But accompanying a policy shift will need to be a major attitude adjustment, including among us bleeding hearts…. In other words, our imposition of “help” (on our terms) while failing to truly accept the humanness of the individual’s behaviour might paradoxically cause the problem we thought we were fixing.

Reducing harms is critical, of course. The growing acceptance of supervised injection services is encouraging. But we also must finally get beyond our fixation on the use of some substances, and our need for things to fit into simple categories. To most, “prescribed” means helpful, “legal” means okay, and “illicit” means addictive, harmful to health, perhaps evil. These distinctions are not based on rational thought. They are based on what the dominant “we” happen to be comfortable with. The truth is that some things we’re comfortable with like caffeine, alcohol. As well-intentioned do-gooders immersed in an unjust drug war, we may have been conditioned to think that if people continue to use illicit mind-altering substances, they haven’t achieved “recovery”, and our work isn’t done; we have to un-sick, un-poor, and un-trauma them some more. After all, we ask, why would any well person do illicit drugs? Well, some do. Some always will. Expecting that they stop entirely can, in turn, alienate them, and perhaps increase the chances that their drug use then becomes problematic.

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People use drugs, get over it
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