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‘Adik, 'durugista,' 'drug abuser' are harmful labels — advocate group

An advocate group on Friday discouraged the use of labels “adik,” “durugista,” and “drug abuser” as these have harmful consequences to the lives of concerned individuals.

“Stigmatizing language is very harmful,” Drug Policy Reform Initiative (DPRI) lead convener Atty. Kristine Mendoza told reporters during the launch of their media toolkit in covering stories on illegal drugs.

“Magkakaroon lang ng mindfulness, awareness of how our stories, 'yung ating framing, 'yung mga labels na ginagamit natin sa ating mga stories, can affect and can have real life consequences doon sa mga tao," she added.

(We should have mindfulness and awareness of how the framing and labels we used in our stories can affect and can have real life consequences on those people.)

The DPRI, a network of advocates for humane drug policies, launched a 24-page toolkit guide for the press in covering drugs, drug use, and related issues.

Titled as “Putting Persons First: Drug Reporting and the Media," the toolkit was developed by advocates and journalists.

The toolkit listed labels such as 'adik, 'durugista', and 'drug abuser' as stigmatizing and harmful.

According to Mendoza, using such labels reduces the multifaceted character of a human being.

“Sa mata ng media, sa mata ng publiko, nahusgahan na siya so ‘yung real life consequences minsan kailangan na niyang lumipat na ng bahay, minsan 'yung mga anak niya hindi na makakapasok, lilipat na ng school,” she said.

(In the eyes of the media and the public, they are already judged so the real life consequences are they have to move to another place or their children would not be able to attend classes or have to be transferred to another school.)

The DPRI  encouraged the use of “persons who use drugs” or “persons whose lives include drugs” instead.

It called on journalists to be sensitive in interviewing concerned persons and communities by avoiding the exploitation of grief and trauma, adopting a compassionate tone, and not baiting them to confess.

Mendoza also advised reporters to question the assumption of a drug problem and urged them to break the notion of equating drug use to crime.

"Contrary to popular narrative, evidence shows that the majority of people who use drugs do so in a non-problematic manner and do no harm to self and others," she said.

Mendoza also noted that individuals accused of illegal drugs violations are innocent until proven guilty.

“We have to remember: Innocent until proven guilty. Hangga't walang hatol, you are just suspects. Those things were just alleged, perceived, suspected. Wala pang facts, evidence. Parang trial by publicity,” she said.

(We have to remember: Innocent until proven guilty. As long as there is no verdict, you are just suspects. Those things were just alleged, perceived, suspected. There is no facts and evidence yet. It is like a trial by publicity.)

A 2019 survey of the Dangerous Drug Board showed that the user prevalence rate in the Philippines is at 2.05%, or about 1.67 million Filipinos aged 10 to 69.—AOL, GMA Integrated News