Perceptions Surrounding Persons Who Use Drugs.

Who do you perceive a drug user to be? Or what do you think of yourself as a person who uses drug? Overtime, the approach or perception towards drugs and persons who use drugs is that of negativity and fear. These perceptions amongst the general public equates a drug user to a criminal, and regard the consequences of drug use on individuals and society as devastating and inevitable. Have you intently thought that people use drugs for reasons like; youthful experimentation, lack of access to socio-economic opportunities, stress and treatment of physical pain.

Society believes that persons who use drugs are ‘immoral’ and the remedy would be, subjecting them to punitive conditions; arbitrary arrest, extra-judicial killings, extortion etc. But if such perception is observed keenly, are drug users really criminals? Not all drug users actually perpetuate crime, other than contravening the drug law which in itself lacks the principles of public health and human rights. It is perceived that the use of drugs strips one of their ‘rights’ and ‘humanity’, which discourages many drug users from accessing required health services. Female drug users are most affected as they suffer ‘double stigma’.

Stigmatization and discrimination, which are consequences of dominant perceptions of people who use drugs have led to; neglect of these individuals in the society, gross human rights violations which have been normalized.   It is easy to assume that persons who use drugs, especially problematic drug users are intentional in their acts which they willingly choose not to control, and the only redemptive measure will be ‘will power’. Considering evidence based researches on drug use, this may be arguable, as research outcomes show that drug use is not dependent on ‘moral decadence’, but an issue of public health concern.

It is therefore important that perceptions consider the public health challenges of drug use and protection of the rights of persons who use drugs, of which such, could influence the response to the use of drugs in the society.