Canada has been home to a longstanding public health crisis related to opioids, including an extensive mortality and morbidity toll in the face of substantive intervention gaps. Recently (2019), two extensive reports from preeminent federal authorities – the Chief Public Health Officer and the Mental Health Commission of Canada – have been tabled with detailed, core focus on the phenomenon of ‘stigma’ and its impacts on substance/opioid use and harms. The reports present extensive descriptions of the nature and effects, as well as a multitude of prescriptions for remedial measures and actions to “stop the cycle of stigma”. Closer reading of the documents, however, suggests substantial conceptual and empirical limitations in the characterization of the – multi-faceted and challenging – nature and workings of ‘stigma’ as a socio-political, structural or individual process or force, specifically as it applies to and negatively affects substance use and related outcomes, primarily the wellbeing of substance users. Concretely, it is unclear how the remedial actions proposed will materially alleviate stigma process and impacts, especially given apparent gaps in the issues examined, including essential strategies – for example, reform of drug user criminalization as a fundamental element and driver of structural stigma - for action that directly relate to the jurisdictions and privileged mandates of the report sources themselves as health and policy leaders. The commentary provides some concrete while subjective notes and observations on the dynamics of stigma as applies to and framed for substance/opioid use, as well as strategies and measures necessary to both tangibly address the material health and wellbeing of substance users, and related forces of stigma, in the distinct context of the opioid crisis in Canada.
Fischer, B. (2020). Some notes on the use, concept and socio-political framing of ‘stigma’ focusing on an opioid-related public health crisis. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 15(1), 54. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13011-020-00294-2.
Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy
Some Notes on the Use, Concept and Socio-political Framing of ‘stigma’ Focusing on an Opioid-related Public Health Crisis
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