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.
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.