Shaming Addicts Does Not Help Them

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Recently, there was a huge social media trending storm about two adults who had nodded out after using drugs in the front of their car while a child sat in the back strapped to their seat. Instead of trying to help them get medical treatment and assist the child by removing him from a traumatic situation, an officer and then the local police department uploaded the video without the child’s face blurred for privacy to Facebook.* This is not what we would refer to as harm reduction or compassion. But it is indicative of the ignorance and lack of compassion for addicts and their families.

It also never ceases to disappoint to hear a cannabis activist not comprehend the bigger picture of the drug war. Unfortunately, overall drug policy reform activists are quite used to it from the government in most cases as well as the general population, no thanks to the propaganda of pro-drug war mongers through this decades-long war on people with medical issues. When Ladybud recently posted a suggestion about not whipping out a phone to record someone’s worst moments to post online, we received a comment on our Facebook page from a cannabis activist saying, “But then ridiculousness would end!” Another commented, “They asked for it by overdosing in a public space! I wouldn’t help them!” The posts have since been removed. 

The war on drugs isn’t exclusive to cannabis, and it is the lack of compassion for people with medical issues as it pertains to addictive substances like hard drugs. The idea that someone would engage in amusing themselves by shaming others during a moment of their potential death or despair is unconscionable but all too common.

People who are addicted to drugs typically aren’t in the best phases of their lives and no one becomes an addict simply because they enjoy all that being one entails. Typically speaking, people become addicted because they have a propensity or genetic proclivity to become one or have mental health issues and are self-medicating. For the record, we are not throwing in casual drug users who can control their use, we are referring to addicts who cannot.


Art Way courtesy of Drug Policy Alliance

Art Way, Senior Director of the National Criminal Justice Reform Strategy and State Director in Colorado for the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) put it quite succinctly, “Our drug policies are often punitive or juvenile, sometimes both, and the apathy or flat-out disrespect for those who use or struggle with drug dependence is a product of our over-reliance on morality and judgement to address the harms drugs cause.”

As such, we at Ladybud implore those already engaged in reform to re-affirm the intention that those with drug addictions are deserving of healthcare, compassion and sensible policies. We cannot truly end drug abuse in this world but we can greatly reduce it by implementing harm reduction policies where those who have these dependency issues and the complications that come with them, can truly find their way back to themselves with a social safety net that wants them to succeed and thrive.

If you see someone in active overdose, the first thing you should do is seek help, not whip out your phone to press record and upload. Please call paramedics. Do not amuse yourself with their misfortune or with a child’s helplessness. 

Some resources on how to help or understand those with addictions or to get help directly:

Addiction Recovery Guide: Self Evaluation Free Online Addiction Research

‘In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction’ by Dr. Gabor Maté

Drug Policy Alliance: Discrimination Against Drug Users

What is harm reduction? | Harm Reduction International


Law Atlas: Good Samaritan Overdose Prevention Laws Map


*We did not link to the photo nor video as we do not wish to further traumatize or shame the individuals mentioned in the article.