Many people believe that addiction is caused by drugs, and that drug addicts are bad people who don’t care about anyone but themselves. Rethinking Addiction is a social awareness campaign that utilizes logic to challenge people’s assumptions about addiction, with the overall goal being to evoke compassion for a population that is often overlooked and treated with contempt.

Problem

According to Statistics Canada, approximately 1 in 5 Canadians struggle with substance abuse. People with addiction are more likely to die prematurely than in the general population. Addiction is still a heavily stigmatized topic in society. Many people believe that addiction is caused by drugs, and that drug addicts are just lazy. Criminalization of drugs means that many addicts end up in prison, and overall rates of drug abuse are on the rise. Among Ontarians aged 25 to 34, 1 out of every 8 deaths is related to opioid use. So what are we doing wrong?

Target Audience

This campaign is targeted towards the general Canadian public, and more specifically towards anyone who believes that addiction is caused by drugs.

Design Strategy

Accessibility
Addiction tends to be a topic that people shy away from discussing. This campaign uses bright colours, playful illustrations, and simple, direct messaging to draw viewers in and hold their attention.

Challenging Assumptions
The poster series presents a variety of relatable everyday scenarios to demonstrate that drugs don’t cause everyone to become addicted. Personal scenarios help to humanize the issue of addiction, making the viewer more likely to challenge their own assumptions.

Revealing Root Causes
The magazine spreads utilize metaphor to demonstrate that isolation causes addiction, as opposed to drugs themselves. The main illustration is inspired by a well-known psychology experiment conducted in the 1970s at Simon Fraser University. The rest of the spread explains and illustrates the relationship between trauma, social isolation, and addiction.

Why it Matters

The final deliverables in this project force the viewer to examine and question their pre-existing notions about what causes addiction. If we stop assuming that addiction is caused by drugs, we can refocus our efforts from criminalizing the symptoms of addiction to addressing its root causes. Only once we begin to view those struggling with addiction with empathy and compassion will we start making meaningful progress in solving the epidemic of substance abuse.

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