Those who work to address the overdose crisis know that stigma impedes reform. The barriers to implementing needed initiatives—those backed by ample scientific research and proven to save lives—don’t otherwise make any sense. To overcome this public health epidemic is to somehow undo the deep-seated stigma that has tainted public support and, in turn, constrained policymakers from the collective response that is called for.
Sadly, the coordinated effort to shift societal attitudes seems out of reach in a nation where drug use is a crime. After all, it is nearly impossible to shed the stigma associated with any behavior that incurs incarceration or other legal consequences. Years in the making, this dyed-in-the-wool mindset continues to be nurtured by existing laws that further challenge the way out of this vicious cycle.
Let’s look at prohibition and the war on drugs.