Written By: Fiona Stockard
This is part two of our series on harm reduction. Click here to read part one
What is Harm Reduction?
Naloxone is an “anti-overdose” drug. It’s a remarkably effective way to treat opioid overdoses. Naloxone can completely bring someone out of an overdose within two to eight minutes. In fact, Naloxone is thought to be so beneficial that it’s listed as one of the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines.
Trial programs have distributed Naloxone to active addicts, their loved ones, police, and social service agencies. This distribution sometimes takes place at needle exchanges and opioid replacement therapy clinics.
Advocates of Naloxone say it gives addicts, quite literally, a second chance at life. If an addict overdoses on the street, their peers are more likely to give them Naloxone than take them to a hospital. If a police officer witnesses an overdose, either on the street or in jail, it’s quick and easy to give the overdosing individual Naloxone.
Opponents of Naloxone say that, once again, it’s too soft on addicts. They say addicts should be held responsible for their actions, should feel their consequences. They say if an addict overdoses, they should deal with the repercussions.
I think any sane person can agree that Naloxone distribution is a good idea! It gives addicts, and those who deal with addicts frequently, one more tool against an unfortunate and tragic death.
Safe Injection Sites
Safe injection sites are without a doubt the most controversial form of harm reduction. At their most basic, safe injection sites offer a legally sanctioned clinic for IV users to inject drugs.
Safe injection sites offer various services already mentioned. They provide access to clean syringes. Their staff is equipped with Naloxone. They offer basic health care assistance and educational classes. They have programs for addicts who’d like to receive treatment. They even have clothes and food for homeless addicts.
Advocates of safe injection sites argue that they offer an invaluable service to addicts. They offer a safe, government sanctioned location to use IV drugs. They’re equipped to combat overdose, infection, abscesses, and other common medical problems. They offer education, medical services, and rehabilitation services.
Opponents of safe injection sites argue this is simply too much. They say it’s not enough to have other options, but now addicts want a place to use illegal drugs with impunity. They say safe injection sites encourage and promote drug use. Basically, they make the same argument they’ve been making all along – that addiction should be treated as a crime, rather than a disease.
It’s worth noting there are no safe injection sites in the US. So far, they’re in various European countries, Australia, and Canada.
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