Amy Winehouse. Cory Monteith. Prince. Mac Miller. Philip Seymour Hoffman. One commonality that these individuals have is that they were all celebrities who passed away from an overdose. In general, the media talked about the great work they did, the work they would be living behind, and how their significant others would miss them. Overall, celebrities who have a drug addiction are depicted as worthy victims (Herman and Chomsky, 2002). The way the media represents celebrity addicts usually gives them justification for their drug addiction because of the high stress they experience from their lives being constantly in public. In addition, the media never portrays being a drug user as their primary identity.
Unfortunately, everyday individuals who suffer from drug addiction don’t have such privilege. They are deemed unworthy victims (Herman and Chomsky, 2002) of society if they suffer from addiction, which is a disease. This means that society takes little concern that these individuals need reformed government policies and a changed societal perception to help them battle their disease. This is evident, for example, from the increased number of raw, uncensored videos of people “passed out with needles in their arms” (Seelye et al., 2018) posted on YouTube. One such video was an instance when Mandy McGowan collapsed from a fentanyl overdose in a Dollar Store she had visited with her 2-year-old daughter. The fact that when the situation occurred, people began taking a video of her unconscious instead of attending to her sobbing daughter highlights the lack of disregard for drug addicts. The consequences of the lack of disregard are severe too. McGowan is known as a “Dollar Store Junkie” and now struggles with addiction and the negative image of herself from a video of one of the most challenging moments of her life that shall live on the internet forever. (Seelye et al., 2018)
This treatment of people suffering from addiction, the way society views addicts as unworthy victims and how they have been represented in the media are significant because it creates a massive stigma of addiction. This makes it harder for addicts to seek out the help they need to battle the addiction, thus contributing to a cycle.
However, there is hope. Apart from the Canadian Harm Reduction Network, which promotes harm reduction as a means of focusing on “the harm caused by problematic substance use, rather than substance use per se” (City of Vancouver, 2017), other organisations are fighting to remove the stigma of addiction in society as one of the ways to help people battling addiction. One such example is the provincewide campaign by the British Columbia Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions in association with the Vancouver Canucks hockey team  (Ghoussoub, 2018) to show that an individual with an addiction identity as a drug user is just one among the many identities that link them to a community such as “daughter”, “co-worker” and “student”. In addition, health authorities such as Northern Health, Fraser Health, and First Nations Health Authority are working to reduce the stigma of addiction and prevent overdose by highlighting narratives about the impact of negative stereotypes around the disease  (Government Communications, 2017).
(First year, 2018)
Ghoussoub, M. (2018, January 29). Vancouver Canucks launch campaign to fight stigma surrounding addiction | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-canucks-launch-campaign-to-fight-stigma-surrounding-addiction-1.4509402
Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2002). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon Books.
 Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (2002). Manufacturing consent: The political economy of the mass media. New York: Pantheon Books.
 Seelye, K. Q., et al. (2018, December 11). How Do You Recover After Millions Have Watched You Overdose? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/11/us/overdoses-youtube-opioids-drugs.html
 City of Vancouver. (2017, January 20). Four Pillars drug strategy. Retrieved from https://vancouver.ca/people-programs/four-pillars-drug-strategy.aspx
 Ghoussoub, M. (2018, January 29). Vancouver Canucks launch campaign to fight stigma surrounding addiction | CBC News. Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/vancouver-canucks-launch-campaign-to-fight-stigma-surrounding-addiction-1.4509402
 Government Communications. (2017, September 07). Reducing Stigma. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/overdose/reducing-stigma