HomeLatest NewsHarm Reduction Advocates, Critics At Odds Over Best Way To Help Drug...

Harm Reduction Advocates, Critics At Odds Over Best Way To Help Drug Users

Published on

Jose Martinez, who had aged out of the New York foster care system seven prior years, was unemployed, homeless, and stuck in “the chaotic part” of his drug abuse in 2015. Staff at an overdose-prevention site then showed him kindness.
He recalled his staff telling him, “The universe is all about giving and taking.” “If you are going to live your life, use drugs, or do whatever you want, do something to uplift the local community.” This message changed my life.”

Martinez works now for the National Harm Reduction Coalition, a nonprofit that promotes safer drug use. Skeptics say harm reduction messages have become more dangerous. They point to billboards that encourage drug users to do it with their friends, nonprofits giving out meth pipes with Valentine’s Day cards, etc.

Kevin Dahlgren, an activist from the Portland area, told Fox News that he was a drug-and-alcohol counselor. “I’m against harm-reduction because it has now been changed to encourage use,” said Kevin Dahlgren, a Portland activist.

He added, “That’s a line you should never have crossed.”

Harm reduction is an approach that meets users where they are. It offers clean needles, Naloxone (to reverse overdoses) and other supplies, without forcing people into treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), only one in ten people with substance abuse disorders have sought treatment. Most drug users do not believe they have a problem.

Martinez said that harm reduction used to be the “black sheep” in the field of public health, but has gained more acceptance over the past few years.

He said that “our approach was too radical” for some people.

Martinez used to smoke “spice,” a synthetic cannabinoid. He said that the drug made him steal from his family, burn bridges, and turn him into “a completely different person.”

Martinez corrected quickly, “But more my circumstances.” It wasn’t the drug, because we think that any drug can be used recreationally and safely.

He quit using K2, saying that he would “rather stick with weed.” He moved from the streets to his own apartment, and worked 40 hours per week. He credits the support of harm reduction advocates for his positive changes.

Tom Wolf, a recovery advocate based in San Francisco, had a completely different experience.

Wolf, a homeless man living on the streets in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco in 2018, was in and out jail. He was in jail for three months after his sixth arrest. This gave him time to clean up and re-evaluate his life. In June, he celebrated five years sobriety. He doubts that he would have achieved this milestone without the police.

The mantra of harm reduction is bodily autonomy. Wolf stated that you should have control over what you put into your body, even drugs. If you are in your home, then I’d agree.

His tolerance for drug abuse ends when it is public.

He said: “If you do it in public, in the face of children, families, businesses, and in front on kids, that’s not acceptable.” “Leaving someone in a street tent to do what they want is not actually body autonomy. It’s cruel.

As the number of overdoses has risen, so too has the debate about harm reduction messages. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 100,000 people will die of a drug overdose by 2022. This is a 45% rise since 2019.

“We don’t condone drug use.” “We’re not condoning it either,” Martinez added, adding that harm-reduction advocates are focused on saving lives and preventing disease spread. “We want people to be safe, so they can have tomorrow.” “We don’t really know what tomorrow will bring.”

Wolf and Dahlgren support harm reduction in terms of needle exchanges but feel that recent campaigns like San Francisco’s Know Overdose go too far.

Billboards and posters with the words “Know Overdose” featured tips such as “do it together with friends” or “take it slow,” paired alongside photos of people enjoying themselves at a party, or smiling homeless people who are about to take drugs in the street.

“I was an intravenous drog user.” Wolf stated that it was not a happy experience. It sends a really wrong message, saying that it’s okay to do this. That we should accept that as a community and that this behavior should be normalized. “I will not accept this.”

Wolf reported that the city had removed the billboards. The NHRC released a statement expressing its disappointment that the Health Department caved in to public pressure to rescind their support for the campaign.

In March 2020, NHRC reported that “2,601 overdoses have been reversed by DOPE Project partners with naloxone.” Imagine what the overdose rates would be like without the program, and without the hard work and love from the community that we serve.

Martinez refused to comment on the San Francisco Billboards.

Dahlgren also accused harm-reduction organizations of marketing to teenagers.

He said: “We’re now seeing cute Valentine’s Cards, cartoon characters, and fentanyl Straw that is very colorful and looks like candy canes.” “It is no different from how candy cigarettes were marketed to children in the 1980s.”

Dahlgren cited the Seattle-based People’s Harm Reduction Alliance which, in 2022, shared an image of colorful Valentine’s Cards with glass pipes. The nonprofit posted a number of Valentine’s cards to its Facebook page this year with puns such as “I didn’t believe in romance, but you foiled all my plans.” over an image containing fentanyl and foil. One card spells out “End drug war” using candy hearts.

Dahlgren stated, “This isn’t marijuana.” This is fentanyl, which is 50 times more powerful than heroin but cheaper. This is insane.”

Martinez denied that attaching cards on a pipe encourages drug use. He said that it humanizes the drug users, and can give them a glimmer hope.

He said, “These people don’t have anybody.” “I’ve been to events where we give out Christmas cards that have a candy bar and a pipe taped on them. What do you think? They say, “Y’all are doing God’s work.”

Dahlgren’s native state has received millions of dollars for harm reduction initiatives. Oregon voters approved Measure 110, which decriminalized personal use of all drugs in 2020. The state’s marijuana taxes were also used to fund addiction services.

Oregon Health Authority data shows that the most clients who will be receiving Measure 110 funded services in 2022’s second half are those in harm reduction. Peer support services is a close second. Measure 110 grants totaled more than $3.1million.

Tax records show that NHRC, on a national level, received over $8.4 millions in grants from the government in 2021. This is more than 80% its total revenue for that year.

The People’s Harm Reduction Alliance, which is a nonprofit organization, received $1.3 million from grants and other sources in 2021. However, it did not specify if any of this money came from taxpayers. In 2010, volunteers distributed nearly 4.3 millions syringes, and more than 125,000 naloxone kits.

According to its website, the organization offers drug users kits that include clothing and hygiene products as well as outdoor survival gear.

Wolf stated, “What I think we need to concentrate on is treatment.” “But harm reduction doesn’t necessarily focus on that.”

Martinez disavowed “us vs. they” mentality that he sees among abstinence proponents and harm reduction advocates. He says that if he encounters clients who he believes would benefit from a treatment structure, he will “definitely refer” them there.

He said that “new approaches are needed.” “As harm reduction, all we ask is that people look at the members of our community differently. “They are human beings.”

Latest articles

Eric Trump Ignites RNC with Fiery Speech: ‘Our Country Misses You, Dad!’

The Republican National Convention in Milwaukee has had no shortage of speakers, and certainly...

Hulkamania Takes Over the RNC, Brother!

The speakers at this year's Republican National Convention were fascinating. The speakers at the...

Defiant Biden Handlers Throw Obama, Schumer, and Pelosi Under the Bus, Then Back Over Them

Many speculated Joe Biden would quit the race when he contracted COVID and left...

Russia Sentences Wall Street Journal Reporter to 16 Years in Treason Crackdown

After a short and secret trial, a Russian court sentenced Wall Street Journal journalist...

More like this

Eric Trump Ignites RNC with Fiery Speech: ‘Our Country Misses You, Dad!’

The Republican National Convention in Milwaukee has had no shortage of speakers, and certainly...

Hulkamania Takes Over the RNC, Brother!

The speakers at this year's Republican National Convention were fascinating. The speakers at the...

Defiant Biden Handlers Throw Obama, Schumer, and Pelosi Under the Bus, Then Back Over Them

Many speculated Joe Biden would quit the race when he contracted COVID and left...