Reviews | Harm reduction is a gift from addicts

With the spread of HIV in the late 1980s, drug addicts were forced to help themselves. Politicians overwhelmingly opposed efforts such as needle cleaning programs. Even among activists, the idea was marginal. But out of

With the spread of HIV in the late 1980s, drug addicts were forced to help themselves. Politicians overwhelmingly opposed efforts such as needle cleaning programs. Even among activists, the idea was marginal. But out of our pain, users and ex-users forged a new way of thinking.

Harm reductionists created needle exchanges, which are now so heavily supported by data that federal health officials promote essential to stop the spread of HIV They invented and organized the now ubiquitous campaigns to distribute the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone, with at least dozens of thousands of lives Already registered. They have developed “Housing First” programs for addicts that do not require abstinence and which, when properly administered, can reduce chronic homelessness by at least two-thirds.

The concept of harm reduction helped at least 18 states legalize marijuana by insisting that it is less dangerous than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco.

It has also spurred demands for the decriminalization of all drugs, as jail and a criminal record can make addiction worse, not make it better. Voters listen: Oregon initiative to decriminalize possession of small amounts of all drugs pass decisively in 2020, and a poll found that 66% of Americans are in favour such efforts.

The harm reduction movement started small, as a collaboration between drug users and health officials in Europe, where pragmatism about drugs was less risky politically. In Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1981, a self-proclaimed “drug union” led by Nico Adriaans distributed clean syringes to fight hepatitis B, with government support.

In Liverpool, England, in 1986, injectors and government officials also gathered to initiate needle exchanges and supply pharmaceutical heroin to minimize the risks of street drugs. To describe their philosophy, Russell Newcombe, a psychologist and drug addict, called it “harm reduction” in 1987.

The approach was quickly adopted by the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher. Therefore, Britain has never seen widespread HIV infections among drug addicts like the United States.


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