Images of Couple Overdosing Perpetuate the Stigma of Addiction

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen or heard about this photo of an unconscious man and woman, reportedly experiencing a heroin overdose while their 4-year-old son sat quietly in the back seat. The photo was distributed by a police department in East Liverpool, Ohio, in an effort to warn the public about the dangers of heroin and other opioids. We aren’t new to shocking images being shared across social media and much less the various conflicting opinions that often accompany them but the image was disturbing, to say the least.

The intention behind releasing these images to the public was to grasp the attention of the general public and to show them that we are in the middle of a heroin epidemic.

“We need to raise awareness to it. People do not understand what this drug is doing and how it affects families overall and the little kids that get caught up in this. We try to do everything we can to raise awareness and help these kids and their families,” Chief John Lane shared with an interview with CNN yesterday morning.

[Tweet “The city stands by their decision to release the photo to the public but we want to know, what do you think about the photo? #OverdoseAwareness”]

From industry insiders to journalists and eventually the general public, it did grab people’s attention. But was it for the wrong reasons? Officials acknowledge that it is a touchy subject but that the need for awareness outweighs all else.

“The poison known as heroin has taken a strong grip on many communities not just ours. The difference is we are willing to fight this problem until it’s gone and if that means we offend a few people along the way we are prepared to deal with that. We are well aware that some may be offended by these images and for that we are truly sorry, but it is time that the non-drug using public sees what we are now dealing with on a daily basis,” the city said in the Facebook post.

We won’t deny that the need for more awareness is needed however what is really needed is education, which is vastly different from awareness. Education for our first responders, for those who aren’t directly affected by the disease of addiction, as well as for addiction professionals.

The city stands by their decision to release the photo to the public but we want to know, what do you think about the photo? Was it a bad move for the city of East Liverpool or a much-needed wake-up call? Share with us in the comments below.

About the Reviewer: Chris Barnes

Chris BarnesChristopher Barnes has worked in health care for over thirty years. He is a graduate of Alabama State University where he earned a double Bachelor of Science Degree in Social Work and Psychology in 1982. Christopher Barnes is currently the Director of Clinical services at The Discovery House where he has been employed for the past five years. Because of his extensive experience in health care & substance abuse he has an excellent rapport with constituents, clients, and other professional organizations in the counseling/social service community.

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