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How to Safely Use Drugs!

addict AIDS Al-Anon drugs harm reduction Hepatitis methadone needle exchange safe haven safe havens safely safeties safety use user

Did you know that some people think that you can use drugs safely? Some people have the mindset that if someone they know, or even don't know, is going to use drugs one way or another, that they might as well do drugs safely! Right?

If you're not familiar with this technique of drug use, or rather, safely using drugs, it's called harm reduction. It's a fairly common practice for a person in addiction, or advocate, with a different mindset than abstinence.

courtesy of British American Tobacco

(DYK FACT: A form of tobacco harm reduction is switching to an E-Cig)

People who advocate for harm reduction techniques go in with a mindset knowing that they are not going to force an addict to quit. Heck! Even if they wanted that addict to quit and stay abstinent, they believe that this won't happen until that addict is ready. And you know, in part, they are right. But giving someone a reason to quit drugs is a common method employed by the opposing team and a lot of people from Al-Anon! It's called, "tough love." 

Al-Anon is a support group where families and loved ones of addicts can go for support, and they use the tough love method, vigorously.

People with a harm reduction mindset don't believe tough love will do anything but cause the addict to do the eventual… overdose. And nobody wants that!

But, what if we could give addicts a safe haven for drug use and make sure that they don't overdose with something like a controlled dose administration? That technique is better known as "methadone maintenance."

In methadone maintenance the person involved isn't trying to force the addict to quit getting what they "need," but in fact, give them a dose of a similar chemical as heroin each day, that lasts all day! And while there are many techniques, this seems to be the safest as far as harm reduction goes...

 

(DYK FACT: Keeping teens from drinking until 21 years old is a form of harm reduction)

 

You would think that with harm reduction everything would be a bit, well, reserved. Right? But there were a few methods that blew even my mind. So to step up the scale a little, tiny bit, we have needle exchange programs!

Needle exchange programs figure that the addict is going to be using drugs one way or another, just like the other methods. But, what if they don't have access to clean needles, and therefor have to share them with each other? Think no more! The needle exchange program lets addicts exchange their used needles for clean ones. This is in efforts to reduce transmitted diseases like AIDS or Hepatitis! And no, these places aren't monitored by doctors or police to make sure that the dope is safe to use either (if that's even a question). The people who are monitoring these places are just advocates like yourself and I. 

So, I ask… what do you think of these two types of harm reduction so far? Because we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg!

Did you know that there are also clinics known as, "Safe Havens." And no, these are not medical clinics either. These are spots, normally located underneath a church. They are then stocked full of Narcan injections or nasal sprays to prevent people who come there to use.

Now, the point of this place is for the addict to be able to come in and use their drugs "safely" in case of an overdose—purposeful or not—able to be resuscitated by the on hand Narcan. Then once the user is done, they can either have a bed for a few hours to recover and then be on their way. The best part of this is that it's out of jurisdiction for police members to seize or arrest anyone! 

courtesy of CATIE

The most recent studies show that these type of clinics, or churches, are most common in Canada. Although, they are catching wave around more rural cities in the USA.

This may seem completely absurd to a lot of you, and you're stuck wondering, "Why?" But, there might not be an answer, only a difference of opinion on how to tackle the crisis at hand.

To touch on one last point, I've heard that certain mental health medication—such as antipsychotics that mind or mood alter (Thorazine), or anti-panic medications like Xanax or Klonipin—are viewed as a form of "maintenance." And when abstinence users go to the extremes of saying, "man up!" or "confront your demons! head on!" you have to wonder that if addiction is looked at as a disease, and so is mental illness, where do we draw the line of what kind of medication can an addict in recovery take?

Some of you may be against methadone maintenance. But, what if someone has PTSD, or suicidal thoughts, or even schizoid tendencies—like myself—and are considered to be on a harm reduction route, instead of full abstaining recovery, because of mental health medication?

And what if that mental health medication is saving their life, like in the scenarios I described above! Who is allowed to take, what kind, of medication? And what is the difference between surviving, or looking at harm reduction techniques as a failure? 

It's sad that for most it's a double edged sword, and complete black and white thinking; which means they are either all for it or all against it… Where's the gray zone?

courtesy of New Hope Recovery Center

So, I ask you… is harm reduction safe?

Or on the other hand… is it just enabling?

Maybe, you're in the gray zone...

You have to wonder if the addict will ever quit with these types of methods and never seeing proven tough love. They sure won't die at that given time with the reduction of harm.

But, are they living clean and sober?

Or just having their drug addiction enabled?

This is the big controversy with harm reduction… 

SAFER? VS ENABLING?

I've laid some of the facts out for you… now you decide! 

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  • Tanya on

    Well, it’s not all unknown. The lies. The cheating. He swore he quit needles but I knew better. He swore he does not have HIV or HEP C as well. He could have swore he would give me the moon and I would have given him all I had to make it home safe. Just as I always do. I hope the herion story is a false or assumed statement butI knew the sickness was similar to when I had aRX opiote issue. I kicked that. I will manage this. Heart broken because I have given him every last penny of my already low monthly funds a month by taking care of the financials while he left weeks at a time. To be honest like 100% real he scares me. The things hes been making the way hes changed I did join because my gut says while im asleep hes up to no good. With all that has been thrown in my brain I dont know what to believe but I know I dont feel safe anymore. Last time I had enough and asked him to go so I can function without fear again he had the landlord start evicting the kids and I. When I called the police and even told them of the violence in the past. They told me to get marriage counseling that unless he hurt someone they could only suggest that. They smiled he winked at them and they went on their way. Hes not touchable with the law and court case after case has proven that to me. So yes I become hyper sensitive and tend to think the worst. Maybe im wrong maybe it is lack of sleep but the fear has been embedded in me for years and this county has shown me time and time again I have no where to turn. I will do this though even if it kills me I can not stay at his mercy anymore. Thank you for your advice. With tears in my eyes I mean that. It feels good to not be torn down and poked fun at. It feels good to be understood and not told I am crazy. Kind words do matter.


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