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Opinion SCS

The dehumanization of people who use drugs

A Lethbridge city councillor recently shared an article that reported on a recent city council meeting regarding the city’s effort to address the opioid crisis. Several people commented on their post, offering words of agreement, but there were a few comments I found problematic.

One of our local city councillors recently shared an article that reported on their actions in a recent city council meeting regarding the city’s effort to address the opioid crisis.

Several people commented on their post, offering words of agreement, but there were a few comments I found problematic.

“I am so thankful someone is finally hearing us, and taking some action.”

But the city (and partner organizations) is taking action.

Our brand new supervised consumption site has literally kept tens of thousands of needles off the street during the 3 months they’ve been operating.

And the free needle programme that has been in place for years has distributed hundreds of thousands of clean needles, and they recover 97% of them, which means tens of thousands are removed from the streets. In fact, since the SCS opened, the return rate of used syringes has doubled. And any that do remain on the street are very unlikely to be contaminated with disease. Even so, city council recently approved funding for improving needle pickup, reducing the risk of coming across needles even more.

And then there are these:

“Thank you —– for taking a stand on behalf of Lethbridge citizens.”

“Thank you —– for speaking up for the people !”

“Thanks for listening to your community.”

These comments are problematic because they dehumanize those who are addicted. They label them as non-citizens, not part of the community, and even non-people. Dehumanizing those we don’t want in society is an easy way for us to avoid having compassion on them. And if you don’t have compassion on them, then the only thing you’re left caring about is yourself.

And that’s why we’re left with a vocal group of people who are more worried about the extremely tiny chance they (or their child) might get pricked by an infected needle than they are of ensuring we can stop people from dying and, in the long term, help them overcome their addiction.

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By Kim Siever

I live in Lethbridge with my spouse and 5 of our 6 children. I’m a writer, focusing on political news, social issues, and the occasional poem. My politics are radically left. I recently finished writing a book debunking several capitalism myths. My newest book writing project is on the labour history of Lethbridge.

I’m also dichotomally Mormon. And I’m a functional vegetarian: I have a blog post about that somewhere around here. My pronouns are he/him, and I’m queer.

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