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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Harvard: Opioid Summit Brings Together Experts to Analyze the Harm of Stigma

“Can you think of all the tax dollars it’s cost for you to go to detox?” the doctor asked Ms. Raina McMahan when she arrived at the clinic in Revere seeking help for her 15-year heroin addiction. “What is the matter with you?”

Ms. McMahan, now six years into her recovery and a certified recovery coach at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the story of her addiction and of the scorn and discrimination she faced, which discouraged her from getting treatment — a dynamic that authorities said Thursday still presents one of the biggest hurdles to fighting the nation’s deadly opioid crisis.

“Stigma is a formidable barrier. Our country has ostracized, punished, and in some cases, even criminalized addiction,” said Dr. Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “And that has led people who know that they need help … to avoiding asking for that help. Even when they do work up the courage to go in and seek that medical care, there’s no guarantee that that courage will be met with the appropriate response.”

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