Junkies. Bums. Degenerates. The terms some associate with addiction are unkind. And also inaccurate. The portrayal of someone struggling with addiction is often chalked up to a homeless man panhandling on a street corner. But the truth is addiction can affect anyone: a mother, a student, a professional. The stigma that only junkies are addicts needs to be erased. And that's exactly what Gov. Charlie Baker is attempting to do. His $800,000 media campaign, funded by the Department of Public Health, to inform parents about the risks facing teenagers launched earlier this year. Just a week back he took on a new mission to take that stigma out of addiction. Through radio, billboards, digital ads, he plans to have individuals tell their stories, including how treatment is helping them with their addiction. All of this is to move the stigma away from what people think addiction is and to show them it's an illness. It comes at a critical time, when heroin use, deaths and overdoses are on the rise. Just recently in Boston two people, under 30, died from suspected heroin overdoses. Five people overdosed within hours the same week. The need for education, and more importantly, help, is critical. Lawmakers across the U.S. are opening their eyes to the problem and some, like Chris Christie, are speaking out. In a video that's gone viral, the New Jersey Gov. spoke out about his own mother's addiction to nicotine. "My mother was a smoker. She smoked her whole life. She was addicted to nicotine. We know that lung cancer was caused by smoking, but no one came to me and said, 'Hey, listen, your mother was dumb. She started smoking when she was 16. Then after we told her it was bad for her, she kept doing it. She's getting what she deserves.' No one said that." He goes on to say, "Somehow, if it's heroin or cocaine of alcohol, we say, 'They decided it. They're getting what they deserved.'" It's that stigma that needs to be undone. Addicts don't ask to be addicted. It lives in them. It's a sickness. And we need to help guide them to a cure. With legislators making these bold and necessary statements and taking steps like Baker, we're on the right path, even if it is just one step at a time. It's a thought process that is catching on. Recently, thousands packed the Mall to stand up for those they had lost to addiction, those who were facing addiction, those who on the other side of it. They already know what our legislators like Christie and Baker are preaching. They've seen it with their own eyes. Addiction, according to Facing Addiction, is the most urgent health issue in our country today, affecting one in three households and 85 million people nationwide. They stood up to say these aren't junkies, bums and degenerates suffering. These are our friends, our family, our co-workers. We need help getting them the help they need.
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