Sunday, 5 October 2014

Stigma Kills: In memory of Mary

Below is a comment that I wrote on Facebook in response to a woman who was implying that parents are to blame for the current addiction epidemic. I posted it in a few groups as well and received an overwhelming response and it was shared several times. I thought I'd put it here on my blog for those of you who are new to this journey and/or may be blaming yourselves (it is not your fault!):

We have a national opiate epidemic that is claiming our youth in record numbers. The majority of them are addicted to opiates. These drugs were not available to us when we were kids because they were used for end of life or post-surgery pain. Had they been available, previous generations would have been affected as well because they are highly addictive. The majority of youth, past and present, experimented with substances because they were curious, wanted to be grown up, were risk-takers, etc. The only difference today is that the drugs available to them are far more dangerous and addictive. Some will become addicted very quickly. Just like when we were young, a youth’s drug of choice is whatever is available to them. In our day, that was mainly alcohol. Today, that is opiates, which can be purchased from their own peers in and out of school.

A recent study from the University of Manitoba pointed out that between 1991 and 2007, the number of prescriptions in Ontario for one type of prescription opioid — drugs with the active ingredient oxycodon — increased by almost 900% and oxycodone-associated deaths rose from less than 1 per 1-million people every year in 1991, to 12.93 per 1-million people in 2006. Many more opioids have hit the market since then. These pills are making their way to the streets. This is why we are seeing the rise in youth addictions.

Finally, as a parent of a youth who struggled with addiction, now in recovery, I can assure you that my children had rules, lots of love, were talked to about the dangers of drugs and had two parents who didn't smoke, drink or do drugs. People commented all the time on how well-behaved and mannerly our children were. I have met MANY parents on this journey in the same boat as our family is. This happens to many loving and supportive families.

Comments putting the blame on parents are extremely stigmatizing. This is especially sad considering these parents have been through more than anyone should ever have to go through. Not only do we have to worry about our children dying, we have to endure a system that is underfunded and ill-equipped to respond to the crisis. Also, most families endure their incredible pain in silence because of the stigma caused by people who are dead set on blaming parents and seeing addiction as a moral issue. I know of a mother who took her life recently because she couldn’t endure the pain of her child’s addiction any longer and she was gripped in fear that people would find out about it and judge her. That is a tragedy! It is also one of the reasons why I will not stop educating people at every opportunity.

The medical community sees it as a disease but the greater community views it as a moral issue. That is a big part of the problem. If we are ever going to address this issue properly and save lives, we have to look at the big picture.

(Written in memory of Mary, a beautiful mother who was on a heartbreaking journey, and all of the others who lost their lives to this disease)


  1. That was a great response, Rose. I have two addicted children. The last two years have been hell for the entire family. That hell has definitely been made worse by the judgements and comments of others. I work in a great place with caring people but based on the comments I hear about addiction, I wouldn't dream of letting them know about my situation. However, I keep reminding them at every opportunity that addiction is a disease and like any other disease, people who have it deserve to have adequate treatment and the chance for a recovery. Thanks for continuing to spread this message.

    1. I am so sorry to hear that your family has been affected as well. It truly is hell and only another family going through it would truly understand. While you are not ready to share your story, you are doing a great service by standing up for those who struggle. Good for you! May your children find recovery very soon. Hugs.


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