Scotland's drug crisis: 'Don't call us junkies' plea to end stigma of addiction

A national campaign is calling for drug and alcohol problems to be treated as a health condition and urging people to stop using words such as “alcoholic” and “junkie”.

The Scottish Government campaign aims to highlight the damage caused by the stigma of problem drug and alcohol use and how this can stop those affected from being able to get help.

The campaign comes as Scotland struggles with a drugs death crisis.

Last year, 1,339 people died in Scotland because of drug use, up 5% on the previous year, and the highest on record.

Campaign aims to end the stigma of drug and drink addiction in Scotland.

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Deaths related to alcohol rose 17% to 1,190 in 2020, according to figures published in August, the highest since 2008.

There were 14,310 drug-related hospital stays in Scotland in 2020/21.

The campaign involves posters and TV adverts, one picturing a tearful woman, saying: “No, I’m not well. I have an alcohol problem.”

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Another poster shows a man with a similar message on drugs.

The adverts state: “A drug or alcohol problem is a health condition. People should receive help and support, not judgment. Let’s end the stigma of addiction.”

The adverts link to an information page on NHS Inform urging a “kinder” approach to those affected, adding: “People struggling with an alcohol or drug problem should get the same support and treatment as those with any other health condition.”

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It continues: “Substance use has been seen as a lifestyle choice or the result of poor decisions. It’s also been described or viewed as a mistake or the result of moral weakness.

“This is stigmatising and unhelpful. It shows a connection between drug or alcohol use and personal failings. This allows substance use to be linked to character or morals. Viewing this as just a personal issue adds to stigma.”

It calls on people to help challenge stigma by speaking out when they hear “negative or wrong comments about people with a drug or alcohol problem”.

It advises that terms such as a “addict, alcoholic and junkie” should not be used but replaced with “person with problematic substance use, person with harmful alcohol use, and person with problematic drug use”.

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