Eliminating the Risks of Substance Use: A Harm Reduction Approach – The European Sting – Critical News & Insights on European Politics, Economy, Foreign Affairs, Business & Technology
This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms Laveeza Fatima, a 19-year-old medical student at Allama Iqbal Medical College, Pakistan. It is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA), a cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this article belong strictly to the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of IFMSA on the subject, nor that of The European Sting.
The root cause of evil cannot be overcome, but the thing is, we can help reduce the evil. Similarly, through policies, programs and practices, a harm reduction approach aims to reduce the negative consequences of substance use, without necessarily reducing substance use itself. Abstinence may not be a realistic or desirable goal for a person and emphasizes that stopping substance use is not necessary to access health or social services.
A well-known example of harm reduction is that drink-driving laws allow drivers to have a small amount of alcohol in their bloodstream. Considering the fact, even small amounts of alcohol can affect people’s ability to drive safely. But the focus is not on completely eliminating alcohol consumption among drivers, but rather on setting a limit beyond which the greatest risk of causing a serious accident is defined.
Injection of drugs such as heroin is illegal, but harm reduction advocates that clean needles be provided free of charge for drug use. Indeed, injecting drug users, the health care system and society as a whole suffer more harm when sharing practices leads to serious health problems such as the transmission of HIV and hepatitis.
Needle exchange programs do not encourage drug use. In fact, they are usually the first point of contact for many people wanting to access addiction treatment services. The most effective way to eliminate the negative consequences of injection drug use is to stop injecting drugs. However, harm reduction approaches recognize that many people cannot or will not quit immediately.
According to a research summary compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), needle service programs are safe, effective, and economical. They are especially useful when used in conjunction with other effective community prevention programs.
Safe injection sites go further than needle exchange services by providing clean needles and injection equipment, a safe space in which people can inject drugs, and medical supervision of the injection process. injection. The harm reduction goals of needle exchange services can help reduce the transmission of HIV, hepatitis and other infections. They also reduce the damage caused by dirty equipment used for injection. These safe injection rooms also provide a safe space and immediate help in the event of an overdose.
Naloxone is an FDA-approved drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. It is an essential life-saving tool, but many people still do not have access to this drug. Harm reduction services can provide naloxone as well as overdose information kits. They can teach people to recognize the signs of overdose so they can provide assistance or get help. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that providing naloxone kits to individuals is safe, cost-effective, and reduces overdose deaths. are recommended for people who may witness an overdose, people attending drug addiction programs, people being released from prison, and people who have been prescribed opiates.
In short, harm reduction is an umbrella term that encompasses a range of programs and interventions aimed at reducing the harmful effects of substance use and risky behaviors. Harm reduction does not encourage drug use and may actually increase the likelihood that people will enter drug treatment. Examples of harm reduction programs that can be effective include needle exchange services, safe injection sites, overdose prevention programs, and free condom distribution services.
Substance use can have serious impacts on the lives and well-being of people who use drugs and alcohol, and the harm associated with drug and alcohol abuse extends to loved ones as well as to communities and society as a whole. Harm reduction strives to minimize these risks while treating those affected by substance use with humanity and dignity. Talking to a health care provider to learn more about harm reduction programs that might be helpful for people who use drugs or their loved ones will prove beneficial to the community as a whole.
About the Author
Laveeza Fatima is a 19-year-old medical student at Allama Iqbal Medical College, Pakistan. She strongly believes in a world where medical students have the power to change the face of health.