This article contains the following information:
- What is Harm Reduction?
- What is Harm Reduction in relation to drugs?
- What does Harm Reduction have to do with pain patients?
We cover the following Harm Reduction information/resources:
What is Harm Reduction?
There isn't one standard definition, but I asked Maia Szalavitz, a Harm Reduction expert who wrote the first comprehensive book on the history of Harm Reduction and drugs called Undoing Drugs , how she would define it. She said "It's policy that focuses first on stopping people from getting hurt, not stopping them from getting high or engaging in other risky behavior. Importantly, that definition doesn't exclude abstinence approaches for those who seek them." The concept of Harm Reduction has been used for years in this country.
- Seat belts - We know people will drive carelessly and there will always be car accidents. So, we use seat belts to reduce harm of the accidents.
- Condoms - We know people are going to have sex and teaching abstinence only won't prevent unwanted pregnancies and STD's. So, we have things like condoms to try to prevent pregnancies and STD's.
- Designated Driver - We know some people will drink when eating dinner out. So, there is the recommendation to have a designated driver who won't drink to prevent driving while intoxicated.
What is Harm Reduction In Relation to Drugs?
National Harm Reduction Coalition explains it like this: "National Harm Reduction Coalition works for the Harm Reduction movement built on a belief in and respect for the rights of people who use drugs. Our strategies include building leadership among people who use drugs and supporting communities in reducing the negative consequences associated with drug use." So, basically it means instead of telling people to not use drugs (like Nancy Reagan's just say no movement) Harm Reduction acknowledges that people are going to use drugs, so they do what they can to keep them safe and alive by using different strategies and techniques. In the last year, there have been over 100,000 drug related deaths in the USA, so clearly what we are doing (the war on drugs) isn't working. As Maia mentioned, if people choose abstinence like with a 12 step program, that is included in Harm Reduction. Although Harm Reduction has been accepted in USA in relation to cars or alcohol, Maia explains that "it's a very old idea, but in drug policy it is radical because we've always focused on stopping drugs, not on harm and we cause lots of harm trying to stop drugs." There are many techniques used in Harm Reduction in drug use. I'll list some examples, and then will add content about each one. As we add each category listed below, we will link each one to the information we add. This isn't an exhaustive list.
- Illicit Fentanyl testing strips
- Never Use Alone Hotline and Information
- Naloxone (Narcan)
- Lock Boxes/Safe for controlled substances
- Safe or safer supply
- Needle exchange (syringe service programs)
- Safe Injection Sites
What does Harm Reduction Have To Do With Pain Patients?
You might be asking how this relates to pain patients and why this information is even on our website. As more and more pain patients are cut off from their medication, many are going to the streets to purchase pain medication out of desperation for pain relief. Since up to half of the supply of medication on the street is actually counterfeit containing illicit fentanyl, we feel it's very important for pain patients to know how to access Harm Reduction techniques so they can test their medication and not die from drug poisoning. I didn't know much about Harm Reduction (HR) until last year. Several prominent CPP advocates have been trying to join the CPP community with the HR community for a few years. Lelena Peacock, Carrie Judy (a researcher with our org), and D. S. Nelson were the first CPP advocates I saw who understood early on how HR and CPP's need to be working together and not against each other.