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Brainstorming session

How do we destigmatize drugs?

How do we destigmatize drugs?

Image credit: portokalis

By Martina Pesce on Nov 06, 2020

Creative contributions

Stigmatization of drugs = vaccination against misdirection of values

[1] Arain, Mariam et al. “Maturation of the adolescent brain.” Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment vol. 9 (2013): 449-61. doi:10.2147/NDT.S39776

by Dragan Otasevic on Nov 06, 2020

Povilas S 16 days ago
Also, you are missing another important point here- not all drugs are equally addictive. Some have little to no addiction, this is the case with psychedelics. People don't take psychedelics for pleasure, they take it for experience. The effect a strong psychedelic will have on you is very unpredictable and depends on many factors - you might have a good "trip", in some cases you might have a bad "trip", but you are likely to have some of both. You are very unlikely to get addicted to strange experiences. So why are people doing psychedelics? Because they change the way you perceive and understand the world, some use the description consciousness-expanding. They affect your insights and emotional values and many people (and I'm not talking about hippyish junkies, but famous intellectual people like Steve Jobs, Sam Harris, Aldous Huxley, Ken Kesey, Jack Nicholson, I could go on) have called psychedelic experiences they had life-changing. So when you say that some people try to hide their addiction under the name of shamanism, natural healing, etc. you really miss this point.
Povilas S 16 days ago
Bans usually work in the opposite direction, especially for the youth - try to prevent something, they'll want it just because it's banned. And that's exactly the case with drugs - many teenagers want to try drugs, just because they are banned or if it's not the sole reason then it's a big part of the reason. Stigmatization doesn't help in any way, fear doesn't help. It only creates psychological tensions. If people will want to do it they'll find ways to do it and those ways will be more dangerous - bought from unsafe people, bad quality substances that are only more dangerous. Laws forbidding to sell drugs for underaged people is one thing, stigmatization is another. Stigmatization is mostly about providing false or inaccurate information and not explaining anything, just prohibiting. This is the worst way to bring up children. A child will instantly see that something is missing here, they are not telling me something, and no wonder they will want to find out by themselves.

As a kid when I asked adults why people smoke they'd give me those sorts of answers: "they don't know what they are doing", "they are stupid", etc. But not the truth. And the truth is - people smoke because they like it. Yes, it's harmful, it cause addiction, but it also gives pleasure, relaxation, whatever the reason for a certain person. And it's not because they can't quit, that's just an excuse, addiction is not so strong that it would take your will away, not in the case of cigarettes at least and I don't think it's the case even with opioids, it might be hard and very hard in the case of the latter, but it's still your decision, - they simply prefer smoking. And you can explain all this to the child and explain why it's banned for young people and what are the risks and why people use it, everything, no need for woo-woo.

The same with spiders and snakes - you can explain that it's easier to avoid all spiders than learn to differentiate poisonous ones. And it will work much better than imprinting blind fear, this kind of education will not only create phobias and psychological tensions in a young person, it will also worsen the relationships between parents and kids - a kid will feel that he/she is being treated badly, but won't understand why. This happens when things are not explained and only negative emotions are used in "education". Imprinting fear doesn't lead to anything good.

Martina Pesce 16 days ago
I believe this makes very much sense, and it is a good way to protect the under 25 population. Then a way to solve it so that this part of the population is safe and so that the stigma does not damage, it is indeed just to make clear how the dangers and risks change after that age. What do you think?

There are many many legal and dangerous accessible addictions (tobacco, alcohol, sugars, gambling, I could go on forever I think...). Why stigmatizing one that can even have at least one good side (=helping to treat some mental health disorder), while all the other addictions I just mentioned do not even have that? (apart from alcohol, partially, and tobacco for Parkinson's disease).

Also, I was not asking how to remove the fear of drugs, but the stigma. The knowledge and fear of the collateral effects of drugs it's of course very needed, but is the stigma also so needed?

It's true, drugs are also used to help terminally ill patients, but not only! As I write in the introduction to the brainstorming session drugs are used also to cure post-traumatic stress disorder and to help psychotherapy. I would say these are not terminal patients.
As I also write in another comment in this session, feeling temporarily better it's the actual key to treat not terminal diseases such as PTSD.

religions and pleasure

[1] Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life (18 December 2012). "The Global Religious Landscape". Retrieved December 18, 2012.

by Martina Pesce on Nov 07, 2020

Spreading fact-based information

by Povilas S on Nov 06, 2020

Juran K. 16 days ago
I get the point, but what I think is a problem here is the fact that there is barely anything positive in drug usage. If there are miracle stories of how people where repeatedly cured by consuming one of the "harmful" drugs, then the whole thing would already get much more attention. On the other hand, there is a lot more sad stories of addiction and deaths related to them. The database of LSD, cocaine and other drug's effect on mouse/human health exist on PubMed, but the fact is that drugs are neither safe nor reliable. What Dragan Otasevic mentioned, drugs could maybe help people who are terminally "bad", but usually just by making them temporarily feel better, not treating the cause.
Martina Pesce 16 days ago
Juran K.
About drugs helping only people who are terminally "bad", I do not agree. As I write in the introduction to the brainstorming session, drugs are used also to cure post-traumatic stress disorder and to help psychotherapy. I would say these are not terminal patients.

Also, feeling temporarily better can be very fundamental to open a window during cognitive-behavioral therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder in order to allow the patient to face the trauma. And facing the trauma seems to be the key point of how to fix the cause of PTSD with cognitive-behavioral therapy [1]. Which of course does not mean that they directly solve the cause of the disease, but they do provide an opportunity to do so.

[1] G. H. Seidler and F. E. Wagner, “Comparing the efficacy of EMDR and trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy in the treatment of PTSD: A meta-analytic study,” Psychological Medicine. 2006.
Martina Pesce 17 days ago
Very good point!

Basically treating every drug like alcohol and smoke (which makes very much sense, considering the risk deriving for them).
I've been raised with documentaries, extra school meetings, movies, police seminaries, and school lessons on how bad alcohol and smoke are, and it scared me out perfectly, but in a very informed way.
With all the other drugs I instead have the feeling I should be scared, but no one ever told me why.

This would totally fix it!

Changing the laws

by Povilas S on Nov 06, 2020

Supporting drug-related scientific research

by Povilas S on Nov 06, 2020

Help stations for drug users in public places

by Povilas S on Nov 06, 2020

Martina Pesce 16 days ago
I think this is a good idea, but not as long as drugs are illegal. I would be a bit of a contradiction, wouldn't it?

Also, I do not believe that it would help to destigmatize drugs because the festival environment is very limited and the category of people there very specific. The destigmatization generated by these stations is then gonna be directed towards a pool population which would already not stigmatize it that much.

Do not misunderstand me, I believe this would be a very useful tool for festival security, but maybe not for drugs destigmatization. Or have I completely missed what you were trying to say?
Povilas S 15 days ago
Martina Pesce It's not an idea, it's already a reality. I've personally seen them both in Lithuania and in France and heard about them existing in other countries, so I think it's pretty common these days, although I'm not sure how common. But obviously, at least in France, it was supported by the government and this is a very very wise thing to do in my opinion. The fact that they exist when drugs are still illegal contributes even more to destigmatization. They are not only in festivals, in France I saw it simply in a public square, I don't remember if it was an event going on or not, but it was probably the place where people often do drugs, a lot of bars around, etc.

But even at festivals there are all sorts of people, not all do drugs, some might even be against them and they would happen to see those stations and it might influence their opinion one way or another. But I think it's destigmatization from the point of the users also - they feel safer and accepted so there is less of this separation in the mind - "me the user and the rest of the world who will punish me" and this more relaxed state of mind then can be passed to others whether users or non-users. If you go sober and see this sort of station you then think (as I did) - "oh, this is nice, so maybe the situation with drug stigma in society is not so bad as I thought". And if you are on something you'd think - "totally sober strangers that are working in the festival (aka "officials") are here to help me instead of calling the police? Then maybe there's no reason to be afraid". You see the point here?:)
Juran K. 16 days ago
Having a help station or train people to help you with something:
- that is not legal,
- has no proven generally beneficial effect on your health and
- could put you in a situation that you need psychological as well as physical help during the "trip",
seems irrational.

Maybe it could also make more people decide to enter that state where, if not anything more serious, then just acute anxiety could make you feel discomfort. I think it would require a lot more strong arguments.

Build up a platform for drug-sharing

by Subash Chapagain on Nov 06, 2020

Martina Pesce 16 days ago
I like it! Maybe a "weedswap" instead of "ticketswap"!
It would take the stigma away but with all the regulations (if well implemented) it would not help the perception that drug consumption is not a big deal.
Povilas S 16 days ago
Martina Pesce It's a pity that "instagram" is already taken:D

documentary, movies, tv series

by Martina Pesce on Nov 07, 2020

Povilas S 9 days ago
There is also a documentary about MDMA under production, but it's been a while already and it's not clear when or if they'll finish it, I hope they will though. You can watch a big chunk of the movie already on their website, they also have a crowdfunding campaign: https://mdmathemovie.com/.
Would be nice to see it done finally:)

Stigmatization is a form of protection from the hack we are not designed to defend against

by Dragan Otasevic on Nov 08, 2020

Povilas S 9 days ago
There is truth in what you are saying, but the reality is much more complex than you've described here. And that is stigmatization vs destigmatization. If you want actual, truthful information you have to consider many factors, such as - not all drugs are equally addictive, not all people are equally prone to addiction, drugs are not the only thing that causes addiction, many human behaviors have addictive elements, so it's not so easy to avoid it as it may seem, every drug has risks and benefits, it's possible to use drugs responsibly, etc., etc. I don't think that lack of information has any benefits over well-informed opinion, in case of the former you simply throw the baby out with the bathwater:)

Probably, just wait

by Shubhankar Kulkarni on Nov 09, 2020

Povilas S 9 days ago
But waiting doesn't contribute to change. Every significant change in society requires some efforts to be made:) We can't talk about forceful destigmatization here, because now the situation is of forceful stigmatization, so significant efforts are required to simply shatter the basis of the stigma and make enough people to seriously question it. It's good to have a positive vision, but actions are also required.
Martina Pesce 9 days ago
Povilas S
I agree with Povilas S. Waiting could be a good strategy if the destigmatization process would have already (maybe even slowly) started. But here the situation is instead of forceful stigmatization.

I still believe that waiting is going to be fundamental, once the destigmatization starts, exactly to avoid everything Shubhankar Kulkarni said.
Shubhankar Kulkarni 5 days ago
Povilas S If someone is knowledgeable regarding the use of specific non-addictive healthy drugs, they will take it irrespective of the stigma. Those that need it (medical use), are given it irrespective of the stigma. The remainder is those that want to take drugs for recreation or because they are addicted. Is it worth to engage in forceful destigmatization then?

Individual thought always triumphs law, at least in the execution part. I mentioned in my suggestion that proper education is the key. I still stick to it. "Just waiting" does not include the education part. Proper education is necessary, either way. The "just waiting" part was for constructing laws that allow proper use of drugs, that is, the legal side of it.

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