Chester County Medicine Winter 2020 - 8

www.CHESTERCMS.org

Ditch the Stigma

How Healthcare Professionals Can Treat
Substance Use with Sensitivity
BY: KATHY STRAIN, EDUCATOR FOR DRUG
FREE WORKPLACE PA

G

overnor Tom Wolf has recently renewed the opioid emergency disaster declaration
in Pennsylvania for the seventh time. Our emergency departments are seeing a
large increase in opioid-related visits, and according to the DEA, in 2017, the
Commonwealth spiked to 5,456 overdose deaths. One in 3 families is affected by substance
use disorder (SUD), and 1 in 2 people know someone affected. These men, women,
children, and teens look a lot like you and me. They attend school, run businesses, play on
sports team, and coach our kids.
As a health care professional, you wield immense power to place patients on the road to
recovery, not only medically but with your words, actions, and behaviors. When it comes
to treating a patient suffering from SUD, the medical community is susceptible to the same
negative views and stigmatized language often used by the general public.

Most of us don't understand
the complexities of addiction.
It's a disease.
As the mother of a child who died from an opioid overdose and of other children who
are in recovery, I know firsthand that the quality of help offered by health care professionals
is directly related to their personal opinions about SUD. That's why I've dedicated my
life and career to educating Pennsylvania workplaces, CEOs, managers, manufacturers,
restaurant owners, health systems, and non-profits on the signs and symptoms of substance
use and the resources available to help create drug-free, recovery-friendly workplaces.
Physicians and nurses are the first touch-points in the SUD recovery process - you're
the director of first impressions. Here are five ways to eliminate stigmatizing actions and
vocabulary and help Drug Free Workplace PA and recovery organizations support SUD
awareness.

8 CHESTER COUNT Y Medicine | WINTER 2020


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Chester County Medicine Winter 2020

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