INDIANAPOLIS -- As Indiana government and health officials grapple with the state’s ongoing drug abuse crisis, they say the problem begins and ends, in many ways, with the issue of stigma. And, it’s an issue that can’t be solved through a piece of legislative or administrative policy.
Health officials have long preached it: drug addiction is not a character flaw, it’s a disease. Indianapolis Republican Sen. Jim Merritt, a member of the governor’s drug abuse task force, says confronting that perception is the first obstacle lawmakers, state government leaders, doctors, law enforcement officials -- everyone -- must overcome in order to effectively deal with Indiana’s drug abuse epidemic.
“Once we remove the stigma that this is someone different than us, we can move forward and rehab the person,” Merritt said.
State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams says the best way to help remove the stigma is sharing personal stories.
“And then all of a sudden, you start to realize it’s not just random person who we don’t know," Adams said. "It is our brother, our sister, our neighbor, our cousin who’s suffering from substance abuse.”
Adams has contributed to that effort by discussing his own brother’s struggle with substance abuse.