Stigma, NIMBYism hurt addiction treatment

To the editor:

This is in response to the Brianna R. Lamke op-ed column of August 26 entitled "No place for a methadone clinic."

"A set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something."

This is the simple definition of the word "stigma," as it is defined on the Merriam Webster website. Even more than withdrawal, stigma is the most difficult challenge any person who is in, or is attempting to be in recovery faces. Whether it is the common "street junkie," the police detective who became addicted to alcohol when he drank too much trying to cope, or the grandparent who got hooked after their doctor prescribed them 120 painkillers.

Addiction does not discriminate based on age, race, sexual identity, color, creed, religion, socio-economic background, family history, or what neighborhood you live in. Anyone is susceptible to becoming an addict.

The stigma of addiction is a huge factor toward people not seeking treatment to begin with. Why is it somehow OK to look down on, and attempt to deny services to, a certain group of people who are suffering from an illness? Imagine the idiocy of a public outcry when a new cancer treatment center opened. Imagine someone writing the local newspaper about how all "those diabetics" are going to be leaving their needles around because a diabetes specialist opened an office in "the safety of our residential neighborhood." No one chooses to be an addict any more than someone chooses to get cancer or diabetes.


An ever-growing segment of our society is suffering, and dying, en masse from this opioid epidemic. All the while, the ever-present ugly head of NIMBYism is alive and well here in the Berkshires.

The Berkshires; America's Premier Cultural resort! You know, the one with the gigantic heroin problem that no one wants to talk about? The one where if we pretend it's not happening, perhaps it'll just go away. The same one where people "support the mission" of the methadone clinic, as long as it's not in their backyard? Yeah, that one.

A quick search of Google maps shows no less than 11 liquor stores within a three-mile radius of the proposed site that Spectrum Health would be moving to, and it's an easy guarantee that they serve doses of a drug that is responsible for more than 88,000 deaths per year, to a lot more than 550 people per day.

But, I guess that's OK for our backyards.

Gary Pratt, Pittsfield