Dangerous side effects
Isolation keeps drug users from seeking medical care.
Cape Bretoners need to become more compassionate if a genuine effort to help drug users rejoin society and become healthy again is going to take place, says a sociologist who has been studying the impact that drug use has on people’s lives.
With about one drug overdose daily and 600,000 needles being distributed to intravenous drug users every year, there’s no denying that a drug culture exists in Cape Breton. And people can die from drug use. But according to sociologist Margaret Dechman, there’s something even more sinister happening, with drug users becoming isolated into not seeking health care when they need it.
“We’re looking at how long do people delay before they seek medical treatment because we know from talking to the healthcare practitioners, by the time they get to the hospital, things are often really bad, life-threatening-type bad,” said Dechman. “So we need to know what’s going on because I find this is a terrible thing but I get this all the time, and it’s like well, ‘ Yhey’re wasting taxpayers money. Their accessing our health-care services is wasting tax payers money.’ But if you’re really concerned with taxpayers money, if they got the treatment up front, it wouldn’t cost nearly as much as it’s going to cost when they hit emergency.
“They hit emergency with conditions that emergency can’t deal with because they become so extreme. It’s costing a lot more in the long run. Even if you’re not compassionate about it, from a pragmatic point of view this is not good.”
Dechman specializes in social exclusion and that’s exactly what she sees happening to people who use intravenous drugs. While drugs can certainly cause problems, the bigger issue emerging is the isolation that keeps drug users from seeking medical attention for what can be serious health issues.
“The reality is, it’s like anything else, there are people who do bad things in all of our world,” said Dechman. “The reality is, people who inject, the vast majority are good people who have had difficult life circumstances so they turn to drugs as a way of escaping. But meanwhile, they become painted with the brush, with what you hear as criminal activities.”
Dechman says all humans thrive when they’re part of a group and drug users need to belong as much as anyone else if they’re going to overcome their problems.
“They have to be able to go out in the sunlight with the rest of us.”
Dechman will present her research at the James McConnell Library on Thursday at 6:45 p.m. The study looks at 20 long-term intravenous drug users over the age of 19 and was done in conjunction with the Ally Centre of Cape Breton and Mental Health and Addictions Services.
Margaret Dechman, a sociologist at Cape Breton University, has been researching how intravenous drug users may not be seeking medical care for what could be dangerous medical issues.