Convenience Store Posts Offensive Signs Targeting Heroin Users

By Britni de la Cretaz 12/23/16

One sign reads: "Attention junkies, go ahead and steal a piece of foil to get high. Just please make sure you OD. Thank you."

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Convenience store signs.
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A convenience store in Columbus, Ohio is under fire for signs they posted in their establishment. The Save Way Mini Mart on West Broad Street displayed two handwritten signs that they hoped would discourage customers from stealing, but some customers have found it offensive.

One sign reads: "Attention junkies, go ahead and steal a piece of foil to get high. Just please make sure you OD. Thank you." The sign was placed above a shelf holding cases of tin foil, which some heroin users use to cook the drug before smoking or injecting it.

Another sign, near the front door, says: "Keep bags up front. Don't stink! Take showers. Take care of your kids. Stay sober don't OD. Nothing is free." This sign, too, was read by some as shaming customers who are struggling with drug addiction and homelessness. The idea that they must leave their bags at the front of the store so they don’t shoplift, that they are dirty and unshowered, that they are absentee parents, traffic in harmful stereotypes about the kinds of people that use drugs.

According to WSYX/WTTE, a local ABC affiliate, managers of the store would not speak on camera, but they told the news station that they had no intention of taking the signs down.

The stigma and judgment that many people struggling with drug addiction face can have a lasting impact. Most damagingly, it can discourage people from seeking help due to the shame they feel about their addiction, the way they are treated by providers who are supposed to help them, and the kind of person they fear it makes them.

“Society imposes stigma - and its damage - on addicts and their families because many of us still believe that addiction is a character flaw or weakness that probably can't be cured,” writes Dr. David L. Rosenbloom in his essay "Coping With the Stigma of Addiction."

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimating that 91 Americans are dying of an opioid overdose every day, and the number of prescription opioid-related overdoses having quadrupled since 1999, it is understandable that being so cavalier as to suggest that a heroin addict should overdose for stealing tin foil might rub people the wrong way. The chance of them doing just that is already very high.

A 23-year-old woman with six years of sobriety told WSYX/WTTE that she feared people might take the signs literally, and try to intentionally overdose. She said she hoped management would reword the signs to be not as harsh. 

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Britni de la Cretaz is a freelance writer, baseball enthusiast, and recovered alcoholic living in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @britnidlc.

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