Addiction is not a choice or a lifestyle any more than a mental health condition is, says Karen Biggs, chief executive of Phoenix Futures.
If anyone were to disregard the underlying causes of a mental health condition they would be rightly challenged in the strongest terms. But when it comes to addiction, it seems acceptable to judge and shame, and when it comes to addiction to drugs it is a common narrative.
Phoenix has for many years adopted a strategic commitment to speak out against stigma. What that means is we see it as our day job. Not someone else’s issue, not mission drift, not playing with politics but embedded in our day to day work to support people and families affected by addiction.
We know how stigma impacts the media portrayal of addiction and we see politicians, decision makers and sadly healthcare professionals all perpetuating stigma. We see their personal belief system affecting their decision making. It can be direct or indirect, conscious, or unconscious, but always works to ‘other’ people in addiction and their families and denies them the rights afford by the law. Let’s be clear; it denies them the healthcare and support afforded to them by law.
We have the right to free healthcare in the UK. But people in addiction don’t get the help they need. Only 40% of people who need treatment in Scotland get it. It’s people in our poorest communities that are most often denied this legal right. That isn’t people choosing not to engage, or not looking for help. Look on any social media site and you will see story after story of desperate people trying to get help and not finding it, or not finding what they want, or not getting it quickly enough.
In Scotland and England, we have seen an injection of cash to increase access to treatment and improve the quality and availability of treatment. In Scotland the funding was considerable but hasn’t been spent quickly and wisely enough. In England the money awarded to date is a fraction of what is needed to make a real difference.
At the start of the Covid pandemic, some of the most gut-wrenching images we saw across the world were of doctors and nurses desperately trying to save the lives of people with this new infection they didn’t understand. In the face of so many patients they were heroically trying everything they could, applying their expertise and experience, experimenting, showing determination and resilience to find a treatment. In 2020, someone under 65 in Scotland was more likely to die of a drugs than Covid.
During the pandemic we have listened to the people who had Covid – their experience of the condition and sadly the relatives of the people lost to the infection. Learning from the lived experience of others is a crucial ingredient to many health care interventions. People with mental health conditions or cancer all play a crucial role in defining their own care plans. And those in recovery from those conditions advocate and support others.
So, back to addiction…
Read the full blog post here.
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This content was created by Phoenix Futures