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The Harm Reduction Anomaly

Marcel Gemme By Marcel Gemme | Last Updated: 19 September 2023
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Things are changing

As the implementation of harm reduction becomes more popular, there appears to be a working solution to mitigate the fallout of substance abuse in America. The problem that exists is that since harm reduction’s core ideologies focus more on preventing the consequences of drug use as opposed to preventing drug-use itself. This would be fine if it were a stop-gap solution, but it appears to be becoming more and more standard practice. In fact, there’s a push to eradicate abstinence-based models, which help people get off opiates completely. They’re labeled as risky and borderline negligent.

An underestimated anomaly

The above creates an anomaly. What this means is that we may very well see a decrease in overdose deaths but see an increase in the percent of the population using drugs. It is difficult to get upset at decreased death rates, but it is important to examine the issue. While the people using the harm reduction approaches of Methadone and Suboxone maintenance won’t be “counted” towards the population of drug users in America, they is no doubt on a legal, prescription form of their drug of choice.

Coming on the horizon is also the possibility of heroin maintenance programs. These would resemble European models, where patients are given needle access and supervised, daily doses of pharmaceutical-grade heroin. It may seem far-fetched but is currently being strongly considered. Again, this population likely won’t be counted towards the drug abuse statistic.

A new “goal”

Whereas before the goal was to get people off drugs, it’s now about saving lives. Fair enough. But we’re committing to a methodology that often keeps people on medications for life and will consequently normalize drug use further. Some may argue this is a good thing, but unfortunately, drug use has become all too normal.

Future Implications

We’re catching a glimpse into a future where once people are addicted to opiates; they’re on them for life. Match that with the growing flood of illicit opioids drug into the country, and we’re simply looking at an ever-growing number of people on opiates, in one form or another. Regardless of apparent “downtrends” in reported statistics due to this anomaly, our rank as the world’s largest consumer of opiates will grow even more.

The long-term implications of this aren’t known. My first thought is for the health and welfare of those surrendering to a life of dependence. It is followed by the curiosity of who’s going to pay for this. Surely, it’s going to get expensive, and there will be those who profit considerably. Our opioid epidemic is a very dark phenomenon.

Before we go all-in on harm reduction, these things should be examined thoroughly. This doesn’t mean stopping harm reduction, but keeping other options open as well for those who may choose them. Let’s not ink anything in as the gold standard and miracle cure before we thoroughly look to the future at the potential risks and consequences. We’ve done that before, and many consider it got us here in the first place.

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Marcel Gemme has been helping people struggling with addiction for over 19 years. He first started as an intake counselor for a drug rehabilitation center in 2000. During his 5 years as an intake counselor, he helped many addicts get the treatment they needed. He also dealt with the families and friends of those people; he saw first-hand how much strain addiction puts on a family and how it can tear relationships apart. With drug and alcohol problems constantly on the rise in the United States and Canada, he decided to use the Internet as a way to educate and help many more people in both those countries. This was 15 years ago. Since then, Marcel has built two of the largest websites in the U.S. and Canada which reach and help millions of people each year. He is an author and a leader in the field of drug and alcohol addiction. His main focus is threefold: education, prevention and rehabilitation. To this day, he still strives to be at the forefront of technology in order to help more and more people. He is a Licensed Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist graduate with Honours of Stratford Career Institute. Marcel has also received a certificate from Harvard for completing a course entitled The Opioid Crisis in America and a certificate from The University of Adelaide for completing a course entitled AddictionX: Managing Addiction: A Framework for Succesful Treatment.