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stigma Dublin footballer Philly McMahon reveals how words like 'junkie' can cause hurt

"He said to me, 'yeah your brother is a junkie', and it is demoralising. It is just a horrible, horrible word to use"

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Philly McMahon

Philly McMahon

Philly McMahon

Dublin footballer Philly McMahon has spoken out about how words like “junkie” can create a stigma that “allows people to feel like they can speak down to those that struggle with addiction”. 

The eight-time All-Ireland winner was speaking after the Scottish Government launched a nationwide awareness campaign to highlight the damage words can cause.

Philly’s brother John died from a heroin overdose in 2012 and he told Newstalk Breakfast how it was always hurtful to hear those words used about him.

“I remember specifically I was in the local snooker hall and I remember having normal, kind of, just banter with another guy and it turned into kind of slagging match,” he said.

“He said to me, 'yeah your brother is a junkie', and it is demoralising. It is just a horrible, horrible word to use.

“You shouldn’t have to go through that. You are already struggling to understand what is going on and then you have this word that is used loosely in this society here in Ireland.”

Philly referred to the Scottish campaign that calls for a "kinder" approach to people struggling with addiction.

It encourages the replacement of words like "addict, alcoholic and junkie" with "person with problematic substance use, person with harmful alcohol use, and person with problematic drug use".

“It is a welcome awareness campaign in Scotland,” Philly said. “I think it is something that Ireland definitely needs to adapt to because we don’t actually realise how much it affects a family member or a person that is struggling with addiction.”

He said the words can create a stigma that “allows people to feel like they can speak down to people that struggle with addiction or to people who are vulnerable or on the streets because of their addiction”.

The Scottish campaign aims to remind people that anyone struggling with a substance abuse problem deserves the same supports treatment as those with any other health condition.

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Last year, 1,339 people died in Scotland because of drug use – the highest number of deaths on record.

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