Harm reduction is known as a proactive approach to reducing the damage that is done due to alcohol, drugs, and other addictive substances. It applies to programs, policies, and other practices whose goal is to minimize the health, social, and economic consequences related to substance abuse and addiction. It can be used to describe the belief that many strategies and programs are based on. More often than not, it is used in conjunction with other approaches including abstinence from addictive substances. A very common misconception about harm reduction is that it encourages drug abuse but the real idea behind harm reduction is to diminish its harmful effects. Everyone knows it is nearly impossible to eliminate substance abuse 100% and acknowledges that people will continue to abuse drugs and/or alcohol despite the many prevention efforts. It also recognizes that many people are not willing to seek treatment even if it is available to them. While this is true for many people stuck in substance abuse, it is still helpful for them to know of the resources available to help minimize the harm caused by their drug use.
What is Harm Reduction?
One of the most well-known applications of harm reduction is the drinking and driving laws. It is known that even smaller amounts of alcohol can impair a person’s ability to drive safely. But drinking and driving laws allow the driver to have a small amount of alcohol in their system and not be penalized for it. This is an example of harm reduction. The idea behind it is not to try and eliminate driving after drinking but to set a limit to reducing the greater risk of a serious accident or other harmful situation. Another hard reduction tactic that is applied to addiction in needle exchange services. While we all know that injecting drugs like heroin is illegal. But harm reduction advocates understand that fact does not stop people from doing it anyway. Their idea is to have clean needles to be provided to IV drug users at no cost. The reason behind this s that, if there are not clean needles being used each time, then the drug users, the healthcare system, and overall society will be harmed. Using dirty needles multiple times can cause the spread of HIV and hepatitis through sharing needles. It is understood that many IV users will inject drugs whether they have a clean needle on hand or not, so they choose to reduce the spread of infection that will lead to death.
Are Safe Injection Sites a Good Idea?
The idea of safe injection sites takes needle exchange programs a step further. It is meant to provide a safe place where people can use inject their drugs, have clean needles, and other injection equipment on hand with the supervision of medical staff for safety purposes. These safe injection facilities offer a safe space and immediate help if an overdose happens. It is also a way to reduce the transmission of hepatitis, HIV, and other infections by reducing any damage caused by unclean injection equipment. However, we do not advocate for these programs and instead treat the root causes of addiction in our evidence-based and solution-focused addiction therapy model. All of these harm reduction strategies and many more are not put into place to encourage drug use, but rather reduce the harm associated with substance abuse and addiction. However, they are not a solution but rather an approach for minimizing risk. Many harm reduction advocates are the first point of contact for drug users to get access to addiction treatment services. If you or someone you love has been struggling with heroin addiction, please feel free to give Evoke Wellness at Miramar a call today. We will discuss treatment options, and do our best to point you in the right direction for lasting recovery.