CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

"Helping Drug Users Survive, Not Abstain: ‘Harm Reduction’ Gains Federal Support"

From The New York Times:

Overdose deaths rose by nearly 30 percent over the 12-month period that ended in November, to more than 90,000, according to preliminary federal data released this month — suggesting 2020 blew past recent records for such deaths. The staggering increase during the pandemic has many contributing factors, including widespread job loss and eviction; diminished access to addiction treatment and medical care; and an illegal drug supply that became even more dangerous after the country essentially shut down.

But the forced isolation for people struggling with addiction and other mental health issues may be one of the biggest. Now, with the nation reopening, the Biden administration is throwing support behind the contentious approach that the center here takes, known as harm reduction. Instead of helping drug users achieve abstinence, the chief goal is to reduce their risk of dying or acquiring infectious diseases like H.I.V. by giving them sterile equipment, tools to check their drugs for fentanyl and other lethal substances, or even just a safe space to nap.

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If drug users do not abstain, they will not survive. This approach is gilding the coffin. Overdose death rates have been skyrocketing ever since priority was placed on Medically Assisted Treatment (Suboxone, etc.) over physical separation (long-term rehabilitation programs). It is cost-effective to let the pharmaceutical industry continue to supply opioids to opioid addicts- it's certainly cheaper than paying for beds in a rehab. But it is killing them.

No one becomes an opioid addict so that they can go to the methadone clinic or take Suboxone. By and large, people become addicted to opioids so that they can escape from reality. Abstinence-based programs give people a chance to find a mechanism through which they can deal with reality without getting high. "Harm-reduction" efforts, in contrast, just continue to feed the addiction- in a less-satisfying manner which does not offer escape from reality and will inevitably lead to the use of street drugs containing fentanyl again.

I wish the experts would talk to actual addicts and people in recovery before influencing the politicians who formulate policy in this area; but ultimately, our technocracy will doom itself by shackling its epidemiological approach to this plague to statisticians without any meaningful input from recovered addicts or their families.

Posted by: Concerned Citizen | Jun 30, 2021 6:48:22 AM

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