Society Needs to Stop Bullying Those With Addiction
I’m going to let you in on a secret: Being physically dependent on heroin isn’t fun. Here’s another secret: Being dependent on heroin is isolating and lonely. When he was using, his family was scared of him, his friends didn’t trust him, and even casual acquaintances weren’t keen on spending time with a sweaty, anxious mess of a person with a potentially deadly and definitely illegal obsession. Finally, on the off chance this isn’t blindingly obvious: Overcoming addiction is not easy.
All of which makes me wonder who the police in East Liverpool, Ohio, were trying to reach by posting that horrifying picture of two apparently overdosed adults in a car while a 4-year-old sat in the back. So, this was necessary to show the other side of this horrible drug? Really? Call me crazy, but I’m skeptical that anyone in the local population is thinking of starting to use opioids because of their fun and glamorous reputation. Publicly shaming drug users or bullying those most in need of help isn’t necessary.
Police Don’t Get to Decide Guilt and Innocence
Taking this type of action, is morally insensitive, not to mention morally repugnant. The woman in this picture is slumped over in the passenger seat while her little boy is staring directly at the camera from the back — which means that the officer who pulled the couple over decided it was more important to snap some money shots before he or she made sure the child didn’t witness his mother’s death. I’m guessing that the same calculations went into the decision not to obscure the child’s extremely identifiable face. Sure, having a photo out there could follow him around for the rest of his life — but it sure as hell is a striking image. In our legal system, the police don’t get to decide guilt and innocence. The ability to convict someone on social media shouldn’t make that any less true.
What Helps is Getting Addicts ‘Help’
What works is helping people see that they can recover. What doesn’t work is public shaming. It just reinforces the negative public perception we’re trying to eliminate. Stigma is one of the major reasons people don’t get help when they need it. Publishing photos of unconscious individuals regardless of the circumstance is an insensitive and demoralizing approach to teach anyone a lesson. People struggling with addiction are dealing with a serious, chronic health condition that can’t be curbed through shaming. Would we post a photo of someone suffering a diabetic coma because they didn’t take their medication? Absolutely not.