Harm reduction programs are a way of tackling addiction that promotes safety and utilizes compassion and understanding in order to humanize those it benefits. It is frequently mistaken that harm reduction programs promote drug use because they provide safe tools and spaces for using drugs and do not require abstinence. In fact, harm reduction programs have been shown to decrease rates of addiction in areas where they are implemented. The following will discuss the benefits of utilizing a harm reduction program to combat addiction.
Needle Exchange Programs
Often, individuals who struggle with addiction do not have access to new needles. Because of this, they will resort to reusing old needles, which increases the risk of HIV and other bloodborne infections. A needle exchange program ensures that new needles are provided to people who ask for them. Many of these programs even extend their services to other people who may be in need of needles as well, such as diabetic patients or transgender individuals who take hormone replacement therapy.
Humanization of Addicts
One huge benefit of harm reduction programs is that it treats individuals that struggle with addiction as humans. So many programs that are offered for addicts are centered around the idea of complete abstinence. Individuals may even be kicked out of a program for relapsing. They are expected to quit their substance completely, without tapering off. This can complicate the process of finding a plan for addiction treatment in Lexington. If patients are held to such difficult-to-attain standards, it makes the whole process of recovery seem impossible. Harm reduction programs break the process up into manageable chunks while recognizing that some people may never reach abstinence. The important part is that the harm that they are doing to themselves and others is being reduced in people who may not otherwise seek treatment.
Safe Injection Sites
In addition to providing individuals with clean needles, harm reduction programs also provide locations where users can safely partake in drug use with clean materials and medical supervision. This ensures that lives that would otherwise be lost to drug use are saved. There has historically been a large gap between addicts and healthcare professionals due to the fear of shame or persecution. This gap is brought closer at these locations, allowing medical professionals to do what they do best: help people.
One goal of harm reduction programs is to decriminalize drug-related offenses. When someone who is struggling with addiction is thrown in jail for possession or use of drugs, they are deprived of the chance to receive treatment. Addiction, after all, is a disease rather than a moral shortcoming. When people are put into recovery programs rather than behind bars, it decreases the likelihood that they will become “repeat offenders.”
Harm reduction programs have several benefits on both an individual and community level. They institute a compassionate and understanding environment in which it is easier for addicted individuals to feel safe seeking help and in which the spread of infections can be limited. In contrast to popular belief, they do not encourage drug use but rather regulate the environment in which drugs are consumed. Thusly, these programs can have a hugely positive impact on the community.