What does Harm Reduction mean in the face of drug use?
In general terms, Harm Reduction means reducing the harms suffered by drug users.
There are many components to harm reduction, hence the scattered approach to applying the principles in our communities. Here is an overview of what we mean when the phrase Harm Reduction comes up in government, in research, in legal terms, and in the mandate of Moms Stop the Harm:
Harms will be reduced for drug users when:
- Safe injection sites are created across the country (repeal Bill C-2)
- Deadly drugs, in particular fentanyl, are eradicated from the streets
- There is easier and more abundant access to detox centers
- Detox centres are enlarged, have more resources and are fully funded
- Detox centre staff can take anyone no matter the level of addiction
- All doctors are trained in the use of suboxone (buprenorphine) to assist in medically assisted treatment recovery
- The government funds a far higher number of long term beds for those in recovery
- The Good Samaritan Act is expanded to include immunity for those reporting drug overdoses (C-224)
- Physicians stay the course on more conservative opioid prescribing
- In B.C. use of Pharmanet, (an online resource to check a patients prescribing history) be compulsory when a physician is prescribing opioids
- Intranasal Naloxone be approved and provided at no charge to all. Injectable is available now.
- Addiction and concurrent mental health problems are treated in a holistic manner with families at the centre of treatment
- Recovery in prisons is implemented
- Realistic, science based, age-appropriate education is implemented in all middle and high schools
Finally, the pinnacle of Harm Reduction which mitigates and includes the above facets, is to end the war on drugs.
The war on drugs is essentially prohibition; it is no different than the prohibition laws of the early 20th century, except the substance is drugs. Prohibition of alcohol was a dismal failure so alcohol was legalized.
Research, and there is plenty of it, shows that if drugs are legalized, regulated and available to all people through legal dispensaries, the profit motive disappears for cartels, manufacturers, and dealers in illicit drugs. (See Portugal, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and others)
Death among drug users drops, overdoses drop, drug users have easy access to information and treatment, the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C drops dramatically, prison populations drop, rate of addiction drops, families are safer, gang activity and crime drops.
People will always use and misuse drugs. That is the reality. We must work within this paradigm to reduce harms and provide help. we must end the failed, costly, dangerous war on drugs. That is harm reduction.