When I was a kid, there was always a clear distinction between the good guys and the bad guys. Good guys were shown on TV as the people who helped others and wore spandex suits, while bad guys were the ones with the evil laughs who wore weird cloaks. It was no doubt, a simpler time.
Now, as an adult, it’s not always easy to tell if someone is good or bad. In fact, I’ve come to realize no one is 100% good or bad. You can’t simply look at someone, or listen to their laugh, and be able to tell if they’re good or bad. If you do, you’re stereotyping them.
The problem with stereotyping is that you make generalizations based on a few small characteristics of a person. Most of the time the judgements we make on someone are unfounded and unfair. The worst part? Those split-second judgements don’t represent the person as a whole and they’re usually pretty hurtful to the person you’re stereotyping.
People who abuse drugs face many stereotypes. Society views the “typical” drug user as someone who is not functioning in society. The news, movies, and several other media outlets show us that a drug user is usually someone without a job or a home, who wears rags and lives on the streets. While there are probably drug users out there that fit this mold, the vast majority of drug users aren’t that simple.
Stereotypes like the one I mentioned earlier prevent people who abuse drugs from receiving the help they need. This stigma against people who use drugs isn’t only hurting the drug users, it’s hurting our community. By ignoring these people, or treating them poorly, we are denying them their right to rehabilitation and in turn, allowing drugs to gain a larger foothold in Taylor County.
It’s apparent that drug use in Taylor County is out of control, so how do we fix it? Our first step is to get out of our own way and allow programs such as Harm Reduction and Needle Exchange clinics into the community. Our second step is to encourage known drug users to seek help and utilize these programs. We all have a role in protecting Taylor County and its members.
If you’d like more information about how Harm Reduction can benefit Taylor County, contact one of our Public Health Nurses at 304-265-1288 or visit our website at www.GTCHDWV.org.