Stigma, discrimination, and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) have been around a very long time. Stigma is a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something. Stigma often comes from lack of understanding and fear represented by inaccurate or misleading presentations of mental illness, including substance use disorder. Most regular and social media contributed to these factors. Literature identifies multiple dimensions or types of mental health-related stigma, including self-stigma. It is defined as an inability to cope with problems or daily activities, with feelings of disconnection or withdrawal from normal activities and unusual or "magical" thinking. One has excessive anxiety, prolonged sadness, depression, or apathy. Self-stigma has been related to poor outcomes, such as failure to access treatment, disempowerment, reduced self-efficacy, and decreased quality of life. Stigma often involves inaccurate stereotypes. Social stigma is the disapproval of discrimination against an individual or group, based on perceived characteristics that serve to distinguish them from other members of a society.
Addiction is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive, or uncontrollable, drug seeking and use despite harmful consequences and long-lasting changes in the brain. The changes can result in harmful behaviors by those who misuse drugs, Evidence-based harm reduction strategies minimize negative consequences of drug use. Harm reduction plays a significant role in preventing drug-related deaths and offering access to healthcare, social services, and treatment. Harm reduction services save lives by being available and accessible in a matter that emphasizes the need for humility and compassion toward people who use drugs. A comprehensive prevention strategy, with harm reduction are part of the continuum of care. SAMSHA says that harm reduction services can reduce stigma; promote a philosophy of hope and healing, distribute Opioid overdose reversal, lessen harm associated with drug use and support services among people who use drugs. So much for the tutorial …
I experienced these phenomena when I was a founder of a Colorado Recovery Community Organization (RCO), Advocates For Recovery and stigma was a driving force behind the creation of Faces and Voices of Recovery, a national organization, of which I was chair for six years. Throughout the years I wrote blogs and researched what was happening outside of the U.S. I found an answer in Vancouver, Canada. They had a clean needle site, supervised drug use, medical assistance, a pitch for recovery and — fellowship. My association with a legislator Introduced a similar bill to the legislature to provide similar services in Colorado; but the bill failed to get the necessary votes. I guess Colorado was not ready for that then. Stigma, discrimination, and NIMBY came to the forefront again.
Fast Forward to 2019 and my return to Orange County, California where I became connected with a team of recovering individuals, family members, and allies who joined together to become The Purpose of Recovery — TPOR. Our mission is peer support, family involvement, and to Be Known as an asset to the recovery movement. In addition, TPOR provides Narcan training, a safe and effective treatment for narcotic overdose that aids in harm reduction efforts.
Interested in learning more and getting involved in addressing stigma, discrimination and NIMBY-ism related to addiction recovery? Consider connecting with The Purpose of Recovery in Orange County, CA and watch for our new open house event — save the date in early March of 2023!
Recovery is For Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, and Every Community
Merlyn Karst—Recovery Ambassador and TPOR Board President