A Case of Mistaken Identity: Drug Addict or PWD?

There’s a heroin epidemic in my home state. Drug addiction is a sad and serious problem in our country that is getting a lot of media attention. This crisis has had an unexpected impact on people who live with diabetes.

via Type 1 Diabetes Memes

Because after insulin laughter can be the best medicine, those of us with diabetes make jokes about it, specifically type 1s like me who have to inject either regularly or occasionally. We joke about being high, we joke about shooting up to keep from getting high and we joke about being insulin addicts. All of which are true but out of context could sound bad.

However some of the actual realities of this disease have lead to mistaken identity in some cases.

Three things happened in the course of one week over the summer that prompted me to write this post.

Needles on the Playground

My neighborhood has a community playground. One of my neighbor’s found two needles at the playground and posted a picture of them in our Facebook group informing everyone about the discovery and letting them know if the owner would like to come get them they could. This disturbed the entire neighborhood group and several expressed that they hoped it was just a diabetic who forgot them.

People jumped in with: A diabetic wouldn’t just leave their needles around! Even if they were for medical reasons why would they have left them? Medical injections wouldn’t leave blood on them! (Although the red could have been lipstick). Then a neighborhood D-dad beat me to saying, “These are NOT insulin syringes.” Someone reported them to the police who made a note, but did not wish to collect or test them, “just throw them away.” Thankfully one of the neighbors agreed to dispose of them in the sharps container for her pet’s insulin needles.

Quick tip: If a syringe has mL measurements on it, it’s not for insulin. Insulin is measured in units that are very small, therefore the syringes are small and the needles are usually quite thin. Although sometimes we get blood on our stuff because of accidentally hitting a blood vessel or having a bleeding finger from a test, it’s not usual for an insulin syringe to be bloody.

Shaken by a Stranger

My friend who has type 1 felt low while driving, so she stopped at a park to treat and wait on her numbers to come up. She had her son in the car and rolled down the windows since it was a hot day. She was shaking and sweating so she put her seat back and laid on her side to wait it out. A woman approached the car and started shaking her and yelling. The woman accused her of being a heroin addict because of the sweating and told her she was endangering her child. Even when my friend explained the situation and showed the lady her insulin pump, the woman insisted she was wrong and was shooting up in the parking lot. The lady threatened to call the police.

A person shooting up on drugs is NOT going to have a pump to show you or tell you that they’re low. A person with diabetes is likely not going to be both shooting up and shaking and sweating. I get that this woman would be concerned, because what my friend was doing probably looked weird. I understand going to check on her, but the yelling and threats of calling the police were out of line.

Shooting Up in the Bathroom

A girl in one of my type 1 diabetes Facebook groups shared a story about a coworker who was spreading rumors about her being a drug addict. The girl in my group is a bartender and chooses to check her blood sugar and inject insulin in the restroom. She’d experienced a low, with visible symptoms and ended up over-correcting the low and finding her blood sugar high, so she returned to the restroom and took her insulin. A newer coworker began telling everyone that the girl was a drug addict and was shooting up at work.

The girl planned to confront the coworker and educate her not only one type 1 diabetes but on the harm in spreading rumors. Others in the group were outraged and suggested more severe measures as well as a reasonable measure of involving the manager.

Keep in Mind

Keep a few things in mind when you’re living your life…

  • Not everyone who has needles has a drug problem. And not everyone who has needles has diabetes.
  • Not everyone who is sweating is having a medical problem but sometimes they are and may need your help.
  • Have compassion for everyone and a desire to help … even if they do have a drug problem.
  • Spreading rumors is wrong.
  • Never tell someone that they’re wrong about their own medical conditions.

It’s important, now more than ever, to practice kindness and show compassion for others.

One thought on “A Case of Mistaken Identity: Drug Addict or PWD?

  1. Yeah, or when I was a kid an insulin vial rolled out of my backpack on a train. One lady who saw it said to the other that is insulin inst it? Yes the other said and it is addictive.

    Well I hope so.

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