There is a whole lot of opinions being thrown around these days on the best ways to combat the opioid epidemic. We were recently told by our President that the best method was going to be anti-drug advertisements. Other people say its funding more treatment centers. Others even say Medically Assisted Programs are the way to go. With all of these differing opinions, there is actually one method of action that has been already working throughout many other parts of the world. That method is Harm Reduction Programs.
For people who have loved an addict, for people who have been an addict, and for people who have watched an addict die due to their addiction – all we want to see if some action. We are at a really tricky moment in our nation’s history where no one can agree on what to do, there never seems to be enough money going where it needs to go, and not a whole lot of improvement is actually going on. Could Harm Reduction Programs be our only hope?
What are Harm Reduction Programs?
Harm Reduction is based on the line of thought that – people are not going to stop using drugs and we will never be able to eradicate addiction from humanity. So, if these things are impossible to control, the emphasis shouldn’t be on doing so, it should be on ensuring the safety of the people who are suffering from addiction.
It sounds a little crazy to some, and again, there are largely differing views on the topic. However, in other parts of the world, harm reduction programs have shown to be helping dramatically. A press release from Harm Reduction International reports:
- In areas of Western Europe that provide Needle and Syringe Programs, new cases of injection-related HIV have decreased exponentially.
- Many countries around Europe have been using Drug Consumption Rooms, which is supervised healthcare facilities where people can safely consume drugs. This has shown to greatly reduce increased Hepatitis C, HIV, and overdose rates
- The US currently funnels $100 billion a year on global drug enforcement, where only $160 million is spent on Harm Reduction Programs.
- If 10% of funds were shifted from Drug Control to Harm Reduction by 2020, there would be a 94% drop in HIV infections by the year 2030.
Different Types of Harm Reduction
Over the past decade, these programs have been popping up all over the world – and they are primarily geared towards people who use injection methods. The introduction of harm reduction programs pretty much started after the HIV explosion in the 80’s, especially followed by the heroin explosion in the 90’s.
Many people saw that there was a need to try and take preventative measures that went beyond the “Just Say No” campaign, as cases of HIV were continuing to rise. This is where the idea of clean needle and syringe exchange programs came in. Many countries had taken a pretty bureaucratic stance on selling needles and syringes, which led many IV users to sharing and reusing their needles. Because of this, new cases of HIV and even Hepatitis C were cropping up all over the world. However, there are still many countries who are still uneasy about providing people access to these facilities.
- In 2006, only 1% of the world people who inject drugs live in countries with widespread availability to harm reduction programs
- Only a third of the number of clean needles and syringes deemed necessary by the World Health Organization are actually provided.
- The UN has estimated the number of injection using people who are living with HIV has risen to 2.8 million worldwide.
- 57.9 percent of these people have a history of incarceration – meaning that more money is often spent on drug raids and control than on harm reduction.
There are also other areas, aside from clean needle exchanges, that harm reduction programs provide services in. For example, they are pushing in many countries to increasing opioid substitution programs such as medically assisted treatment alternatives like suboxone and methadone programs.
Again, this is a bit of a hot-button topic for many, as a lot of people, especially those who are already sober, believe that this could simply be just replacing one addiction with another. However, there is a large amount of data proving that this alternative has seriously reduced the rates of overdose and injection drug use.
Harm reduction programs also provide people with access to 12 step fellowships, drug education, assistance programs for mothers with children, providing naloxone to underfunded communities, and the advocating of treatment before incarceration and basic human rights.
Areas of Needed Growth
According to the group, Harm Reduction International, who is currently pushing the UN to practice their 10 by 20 program, there is still a whole lot of change that needs to happen.
We briefly mentioned this program earlier, HRI has compiled data that proves that if many countries would allocate just one-tenth of the funding they push towards drug enforcement into harm reduction programs, there would be a dramatic change.
- For example, they state that just 10 cents of every dollar spent on enforcement, would cover annual HIV and hepatitis C prevention for injection users. Globally, twice over.
There are many people living with Hepatitis C and HIV, and the funding for treatment is definitely possible, so the HRI is pushing many government agencies, the UN, and the WHO to look into increasing funding into harm reduction programs.
Need Help for Substance Abuse?
Addiction in any form is never a pretty thing. Lives are ruined and chaos is unshackled as we begin to fixate on whatever chemicals can be tossed our way. This can go on for some time unless we listen to our inner intuition telling us that everything is not okay. Justifying our alcoholic tendencies will only keep up in the misery for longer. If you or a loved one has been struggling with getting a firm grasp on sobriety and need substance abuse treatment, please call 1-855-49hills or visit www.hhills.com. Our teams of specialists are waiting by to help figure out what options are best for sending your life is a comfortable direction that you can proudly stand behind.