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Addict Shaming or Raising Awareness?

There have been several cases lately of police sharing videos and photos of overdose victims on Facebook. One such video of an arrest in Florida was viewed more than 50,000 times within three days of being posted. A man and woman were unconscious in their car parked in front of a convenience store. There was a baby in the back seat. Several similar videos have gotten a lot of attention recently. A similar post by the City of East Liverpool in Ohio showed a man and woman unconscious from overdose in their car on the side of the road. Their young child was in the back seat.

In another viral video, taken in Lawrence, Massachusetts, an overdosing woman lies unconscious in the toy aisle of the Dollar Store while her screaming toddler tries to wake her up.

The motivation for these posts seems to be partly well intentioned and partly exasperation. The City of East Liverpool commented, “ We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis.” The people posting the videos and images want people to see the devastating effects of opioid addiction in hopes of deterring new users and bringing more attention and resources to the crisis.

Whether this strategy is effective or helpful is another question. Whereas the video of the unconscious woman in the toy aisle evokes sympathy for both mother and child, the videos and images of addicts in their cars with children evokes disgust, like finding dead rats in the kitchen. The images are dehumanizing. In the images from Ohio, the parents appear dead while their blond son stares out from the back window. While the pictures may serve as cautionary example for some people, they also stigmatize addiction. Addicts don’t need ridicule; they need help.

Shame is addiction fuel. Not only does it make people use, it makes people relapse. There is a fine line between drawing attention to the cost of addiction and framing addicts as inherently bad people. It’s not always clear where that line is. If the woman lying on the floor of the Dollar store watched that video, would her guilt convince her to enter treatment or would her shame cause her to keep using?

If we want to stem the tide of opioid addiction, we must be careful to avoid contributing to a climate of shame and judgment. Addiction takes an enormous toll on society and that toll is borne most heavily by addicts and their families. If you or someone you love is struggling with opioid addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can give you the support you need to overcome it. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com to find out how to begin.