Advocates say the federal government can do more to address opioid use stigma

·2 min read

OTTAWA — New federal government research says that stigmatizing views about opioid use disorder — unfair perceptions and disapproval of people who take these drugs — continue to be held by a significant portion of the population.

One in four respondents held stigmatizing views against people who use opioids, one in four held sympathetic views, and half held a mix of the two, with the rates holding steady since the research was first conducted in 2017.

While advocates say they are cautious about some of the research results, they agree the government can do more to reduce stigma against people who use opioids.

Eugenia Oviedo-Joekes, a professor at the University of British Columbia's School of Public Health, says despite the limitations of the research due to its methodology, its findings could still be useful.

The report says teens have less familiarity with opioids and the crisis, but four in five of them name their parents as one of their most trusted information sources.

Oviedo-Joekes says parents of teens generally aren't talking to their kids much about harm reduction for opioids, which presents an opportunity for the government to target parents in campaigns.

Garth Mullins, a member of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, says the federal government declaring a public health emergency about the opioid crisis would be "the best advertisement for not stigmatizing drug users."

Andréa Richer, a Health Canada spokesperson, says in 2018 the department launched a multi-year campaign to raise awareness of the opioids crisis, educate Canadians on the risks and highlight the effects of stigma against people who use drugs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

The Canadian Press

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