Sunday, September 20, 2015

10 Reasons Why Harm Reduction is Better Than Forced Abstinence

Harm reduction quote

Harm Reduction: The Anti-War on Drugs

If you think about it, harm reduction does everything the war on drug does not. It doesn't treat addicts like criminals and incarcerate them, instead it saves lives and promotes an empathetic view of addicts which creates a better quality of life. Harm reduction programs provide a discrimination-free environment that doesn't force abstinence. Some examples of the harm reduction programs are:

Harm reduction isn't about forcing the addict to quit when they aren't ready. A common saying in harm reduction programs is "meeting the addict where they're at". Whether they're ready to quit or not. If people want to use they are going to use no matter what. Forcing abstinence instead of providing what they need will only lead to relapse or harm. 

Anyone who has been addicted understands that the chances of us seeking help somewhere that will pressure us to quit isnt very likely which means that instead of being safe and supported we run the chance of getting hurt or dying. We all deserve the opportunity to be as safe as possible.

Everyone deserves to be safe no matter what choices they make.

harm reduction saves lives quote
I think it should be pretty clear by now that the war on drugs and forced abstinence doesn't work. Not to mention its practice creates discrimination. Body autonomy is a human right and trying to control what people do with their bodies is a slippery slope that can lead to more human rights violations. If we are to save as many lives as possible and treat people like their life matters we need to consider Harm Reduction Initiatives seriously.

In my addiction days, I had no idea what harm reduction was and why it was important. I participated in risky behaviors myself without really understanding the consequences and I know I'm not the only one. Having been informed and given the support to be as safe as possible, I probably would have done things differently. Thankfully my lack of support didn't lead to anything more serious then having to take a few pills to fix the problem.

I didn't know of any program that would have given me the information and support I needed to be safer until I was in Recovery. The few standard counseling and health care programs I encountered felt very judgemental. It didn't take me long to decide I didn't want to be there. The pressure to do things their way wasn't very helpful. Not to mention, I wasn't any good at keeping appointments so a place where I could just drop by without one would have been useful. 

harm reduction continuum

More importantly, programs willing to help no matter what our goal is on the harm reduction continuum is important for a number of reasons. Not only is it more realistic which means a larger amount of addicts will benefit from it but it shows us that they really do care about what we want. Its about respecting our choices which sadly isn't all that common in most health care settings. A program like that would have made a big difference in my life. I wasn't ready for abstinence when I needed help the most. Expecting that of me was unrealistic. We can't possibly support the idea that only people who are ready to quit deserve help and safety. I would like to think that the preservation of life is important to all of us.

Here's a Brief Recap on Why Harm Reduction is Better Than Forced Abstinence
  1. It's a realistic approach 
  2. Not everyone is ready for abstinence
  3. It provides drug use safety education 
  4. It reduces physical and emotional harm 
  5. It reduces discrimination
  6. It respects personal choice
  7. Every life is worth helping, not only recovering addicts who are abstinent
  8. Better health care and counseling for addicts who aren't ready to quit
  9. It provides a judgment-free environment for addicts seeking help
  10. Showing addicts they matter leads to better life choices
The harm reduction goal is to improve the quality of life of addicts by giving them the education and tools they need to make their own choices. Whatever goal they have, for whatever reason they showed up, whether it be clean needles or support on how to better manage there lives and drug use, their choices are respected.

Harm reduction does exactly what it says: reduce not only physical harm like the spread of diseases but reduces emotional harm by providing compassionate counseling. Letting addicts know they matter improves their lives and encourages them to make better choices.

PS. Abstinence is a form of harm reduction and it can do wonders for a lot of people but not everyone is ready for abstinence. What I refer to here is pressuring someone to be abstinent to the detriment of their safety and health.

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Yours Truly,
Chelsie Charmed