Treat people who use drugs with dignity.

That’s the message behind a new campaign by the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy. The SMOS says the stereotypes surrounding people who use drugs make it more difficult to give treatment and prevent overdoses.

This new campaign is aimed at shifting the way people think about drug users. It’s looking to create greater understanding and respect for them, whether they use prescription or illicit drugs.

“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 SMOS says the image that usually comes to people’s minds about those who use drugs are marginalized people who are experiencing homelessness. Although that does describe a portion of people with addiction Swoboda-Geen stresses 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 Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit and the SMOS, which itself is a collective comprehensive strategy aimed at reducing the harm opioids cause in Simcoe and Muskoka. You can find more information about the campaign at the SMDHUs website or by calling Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, weekdays from 8:30am to 4:30pm.