Harm reduction and addiction

There are some incredible harm reduction organizations out there. For folks unfamiliar with the concept, there is a great overview of the idea behind harm reduction here. This process has also been referred to as harm minimization. The idea is to meet people where they are in their use, practice or suffering, and to attempt to provide safety and relief in baby steps. I first learned of this methodology because of the brilliant organization Helping Individual Prostitutes Survive in DC. Condom distribution is a harm reduction strategy. So is needle exchange. In Philadelphia, where I now live, there is a harm reduction-based organization Prevention Point.

People hold varying opinions on harm reduction as a public health and wellness strategy. While doing some research for another project, I recently stumbled onto this organization, dedicated to harm reduction in treating alcohol addiction. I hadn’t thought much about harm reduction in alcohol abuse. I can think of some ways in which it could work, but some of the greatest harm alcoholism inflicts, besides car accidents, violent incidents, and general health issues, are relationally based – domestic violence, emotional abuse, neglect, poor communication, sexual violence, infidelity (mixed in with dishonesty, confusion, and dangerously lowered inhibitions), boundary violation, etc. To this end, I don’t know how much harm reduction strategies could do unless they really encouraged low-level alcohol content consumption. For those hurt by alcoholics, even the idea of seeing them with a drink can be disturbing.

I am, however, interested in people brave enough to engage these kinds of dialogues. I noticed HAMS (Harm Reduction for Alcohol) had advertised this conference, from November 15-18, 2012 in Portland, OR. It is organizing by the Harm Reduction Coalition based in New York City, a group that also shares regular podcasts such as this one. Interestingly enough I had just heard about Gabor Mate, interviewed on today’s podcast, through my bandmate and best friend who bought a book by the Hungarian man on his work.

Interested in other people’s perspectives and thoughts.

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