America’s opioid epidemic has taken 64,000 lives in 2016. While many people support prosecution and strict punishment for drug users, Vancouver in British Columbia has taken a different approach with their drug use policy of harm reduction. Travis Lupick, author of Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction, explains more about how harm reduction works and where it came from.
Harm reduction seeks to solve the problems of drug addiction by alleviating the harms caused by the prohibition of drugs, rather than the drugs themselves. In Vancouver, a supervised injection facility, established based on the recommendation of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), provides a safe and clean place for drug use, without providing drugs. This has resulted in the reduction of diseases caused by unclean needles, for example, and has even provided many with a lifeline to abstinence and detox from drugs.
Although counterintuitive, harm reduction has been met with resistance within Vancouver and in several cities in the US, as well. But, the effects of this program have been undeniably positive and have been supported by medical research. By providing a space where drug users feel safe, the city is providing drug users with the chance to use drugs safely and also to eventually transition into a drug-free life. Lupick calls for more American cities to consider the benefits of this program, as well as encouraging more doctors to enter the field of addiction medicine, where they are sorely needed.
For more information about Harm Reduction or to purchase a copy of Lupick’s book, visit the links below.
- Travis Lupick, author of Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle With Addiction