For addicts, harm reduction works

NationalPost.com – FullComment/letters  – Re: A ‘Disease’ Of Choice, Barbara Kay, Sept. 26.
Sep 28, 2012.

In her column on addiction, Barbara Kay demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of harm reduction. She should spend a day at Insite, or at the very least further educate herself on what she’s criticizing.

Harm reduction does not subscribe to the disease model or any other model of addiction. Put simply — the set of policies and programs that fall under the harm reduction model aim to reduce the negative health, social and economic consequence of drug use. One of these risks is the spread of HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C; a very serious public health issue that Ms. Kay fails to mention.

It is true that people often mature out of addiction, but far from surrendering to addiction, harm reduction accomplishes just the opposite — it creates a supportive space for people to move past drug use when they are ready. And contrary to Ms. Kay’s mischaracterization, harm reduction does not in any way conflict with rehabilitation. Insite, for instance, is connected to a detox centre, and use of its supervised injection facilities is often the first step towards recovery.

The issue of drug addiction is far too complicated for sweeping generalizations and easy answers — it calls for a variety of approaches, and harm reduction is central to helping those who use drugs and the public health at large.

Donald MacPherson, executive director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addictions, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver.

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