It’s a scene that has repeated itself too many times in the last few months: emergency responders arrive on the scene of apparent drug overdoses to find parents or guardians unconscious and near death while their children look on, emotionally distraught and terrified. It seems since the Liverpool Police Department shared the first viral image of a grandmother and her boyfriend overdosed in a SUV with her grandson in the backseat more and more of these images have been released.
Some have criticized the upsetting images, claiming those responsible for taking them should be focused on helping rather than humiliating people into sobriety- which doesn’t work. Others applaud this shocking and sometimes graphic means of drawing attention to a serious public health and safety issue.
But no one is asking the real question here: why are there so many incidents of parents overdosing in front of their children?
When Hope, Indiana police responded to yet another scene with a mother overdosing in her car with a 10 month old baby in the back seat, they took a picture and shared it across social media in an attempt to continue the overdose awareness campaign. In doing so, Marshal Matthew Tallent realized there was a solemn reason behind the apparent new drug abuse trend.
“Parents are doing this more often with children in the car because they are doing it away from someone who is going to disapprove.
Stigmas and shame associated with substance abuse can drive people into dangerous situations- for themselves and others. While Marshal Tallent’s suggestion that using in front of children is a means of escaping ridicule, he’s not touching on the impact witnessing these events has on those children. Studies concur that exposure to substance abuse in the home environment impact a child’s chances of developing a substance abuse disorder.
Instead of going to social media as a means of discouraging substance abuse through humiliating images and shaming, we should be focused on providing genuine and effective resources for rehabilitation and support. Until that happens, we will only continue to see these terribly sad and potentially tragic incidents increase.