Toronto Public Health launches anti-stigma campaign on drug use

Toronto Public Health launched a new campaign on May 18, intended to help start conversations about substance use. This is an important step in addressing the overdose crisis in Toronto. Recognizing that people who take drugs are our friends, family members, and coworkers helps to put a human face to the many lives lost to these tragedies.

“We need to recognize that people from all walks of life take drugs, yet many face significant stigma from their family, friends and society at large. The impact of this stigma is profound and is contributing to the overdose crisis,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto. “Talking to someone close to you about substance use can be difficult but it could also be the most important conversation you will ever have. This campaign will help promote this message.”

The opioid crisis remains a serious public health issue in Toronto and beyond. The most recent preliminary estimates from the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario show there were 187 deaths in Toronto from May to October 2017, which is more than double the number of deaths over the same time period in 2016.

This campaign focuses on showing people how they can reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with drug use by changing our language to support people in a compassionate and respectful way. Reducing stigma is critical to saving lives.

The creative material from the anti-stigma campaign was adapted from British Columbia’s Stop Overdose B.C. campaign launched by the B.C. Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions earlier this year. The ministry graciously shared the material with Toronto Public Health.

“The overdose crisis knows no boundaries. It is international in scope and requires everyone to work together, to share knowledge and resources in order to address the devastating impact on individuals and families,” said B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy. “We are very pleased to share the campaign and its powerful message to address stigma and build support for an effective response.”

“We want people to feel valued, supported and reassured that someone will be there to respond if they reach out for help. We know that more work is needed on many different fronts to address this very serious health issue and this is one step in the way forward,” added Dr. de Villa.

More information about the Toronto campaign is available at

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