In life, there are always consequences to a person’s actions. Sometimes these consequences can be tough to overcome. This is especially true when it comes to substance abuse and drug addiction. No matter why a person may have started using drugs, it’s the results that can cause the most pain. Drug addiction can affect all aspects of a person’s life, sometimes making it hard to function without the drug. That’s why anything, such as harm reduction services, that can help improve the health and well-being of people suffering from substance addictions should be celebrated.
While it is hard to stop people from making mistakes, it is possible to reduce the consequences of drug addiction with harm reduction services. Harm reduction services aim to deter the negative personal and social impacts that alcohol use and substance use can cause. Harm reduction uses a set of strategies to prevent certain outcomes. While harm reduction is useful, it is best to rely on comprehensive addiction treatment at a rehab center such as Harmony Ridge.
What is Harm Reduction?
As the name suggests, harm reduction refers to programs, practices, and policies that aim to reduce the negative effects of drug use. This refers specifically to the physical, social, and legal effects of drug use and drug policies. Harm reduction services aim to save lives and offer a proactive approach to drug use.
Over the years, drug use has continued to rise in the U.S. and beyond. Harm reduction services are used to reach the masses through special programs and policies. Additionally, one of the trademarks of harm reduction is to reduce the stigma associated with drug abuse. Oftentimes, a person may feel burdened or afraid due to the stigma behind addiction. The truth though is that addiction can affect anyone and everyone should feel safe reaching out for help.
Why Harm Reduction is Important
Some see harm reduction services as important because they seek to minimize negative stigma and negative effects that come about from drug use. Essentially, harm reduction offers resources and precautions that can save a person’s life in certain cases. There are several nationwide efforts that seek to decrease the risk of disease, stigma, and even death.
Harm reduction services can include some of the following:
- Reduce negative stigma about substance use or mental health disorders
- Educate and connect individuals through counseling, referrals, and other programs
- Decrease disease transmission for those who abuse substances (ex: proper medication, injections, etc.)
- Decrease overdose deaths by providing proper resources and facilitating co-location services
- Provide proper medications to those suffering from an overdose
- Providing positive philosophies of hope for those in recovery through harm reduction services
Harm Reduction Services for Specific Drugs
There are certain drugs that have specific negative effects. Fortunately, there are several harm reduction techniques for substance abuse treatment. Let’s take a look at some of the policies and harm reduction techniques that are used for heroin, stimulants, opioids, and other commonly used drugs.
Opioids and Heroin
Opioids are some of the most widely abused drugs out there today and the number of addictions to opioids continue to rise. For both heroin and other opioids, the main goal of harm reduction is to reduce the risk of overdose and viruses (blood-borne) that develop from such substance abuse. Harm reduction services include several approaches, which include referring people to addiction treatment programs and care.
Injection sites are one of the main ways that harm reduction comes into play for heroin/opioid use. Injection sites help prevent overdose and infectious diseases. In these facilities, a person is educated on safer injections, given medical care, and referred to addiction treatment in some cases. It is worth noting that the staff in these injection sites do not provide drugs or injections to patients.
Needle exchange programs (NEP) are community-based programs that provide people with free needles and syringes that are sterile. These programs also dispose of needles/syringes that have been used. This can significantly decrease the risk of bloodborne infections like HIV or hepatitis.
Alcohol is abused by millions of people around the world every year. Many people don’t realize the true effects of alcoholism until it’s taken its course on their lives, mind, and body.
Harm reduction services for alcohol seek to decrease the harm done by alcohol abuse. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can open the door for several other problems like injuries, accidents, mental health issues, heart disease, and many other conditions.
HAMS is a measure that stands for Harm Reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support. This is a group that seeks to meet people ‘where they are at’ to avoid the negative/harmful effects of alcohol. This is also to prevent the harmful effects of alcohol while helping people change their alcohol habits.
Another harm reduction measure is the use of naltrexone. Naltrexone is a medication that’s used to help people better control their drinking habits. It decreases the pleasurable effects of drinking and can be used to lower or eliminate alcohol use. Managed alcohol programs (MAPs) are also used to help minimize alcohol use among homeless people.
Similar to alcohol, harm reduction services for stimulants focus on meeting a person where he or she is at, along with promoting education on stimulant misuse and preventing their effects. This includes dental problems, psychosis, poor hygiene, and STDs (among other conditions).
Harm reduction for stimulants involves outreach programs and other mobile units to spread safety and education throughout the community. Some of the main points of harm reduction services for stimulants include:
- Referrals to treatment centers
- Distribution of lubricant or condoms
- Safe injection methods through clean supplies and info on safety use
- Food and water for those dealing with homeless or impoverishment
- Getting help to those suffering from delusions, anxiety, or hallucinations at the moment about their conditions.
Marijuana is one of the most used drugs out there today and it’s important to be safe when using it. Harm reduction services for marijuana focus on promoting safety, well-being, and decision-making when using marijuana. There are several harms that can come from marijuana use if a person is not careful, these include:
- Dealing with mental health problems
- Accidents while driving under the influence of marijuana
- Developing cannabis use disorders
- Risks of pregnancy (low birth weight and other effects on the baby).
- Infections that are caused by pipes, joints, or bongs
Reducing Negative Stigma Through Harm Reduction
Another positive aspect of harm reduction services is the avoidance of stigma when it comes to drug addiction treatment. Addiction can affect anyone, regardless of age or gender. Unfortunately, some people may be hesitant to reach out for professional help because of the negative stigma attached to the drug addiction. Harm reduction services help dispel the smell and fear of being a myth and make other forms of caution possible.
Criticisms of Harm Reduction
While there are certain positives to using harm reduction services, the approach has been met with some criticism. One of the criticisms is that harm reduction uses certain medications to substitute the drug the person is abusing. It can be seen as substituting one drug for another, as a person continues to be dependent on stimulants or opioids. In some cases, these drugs can even be sold on the black market or transferred in other ways.
Another criticism of harm reduction includes the concern for more dirty needles on the street along with more overdoses. Without the proper control, harm reduction services can end up causing more harm than good. Additionally, harm reduction services are often criticized for enabling further addiction and drug use for those struggling. Thus, while harm reduction services may yield some benefits, it’s important to look at other approaches when it comes to addiction treatment.
Treatment Options for Drug Addiction
Harm reduction services can serve as precursors for actual addiction treatment and can have some positive effects on society as a whole. However, when it comes to addiction, it’s important to look for comprehensive treatment. Rehab centers like Harmony Ridge provide a number of evidence-based treatment methods for addiction.
Drug and alcohol addiction can cause negative effects on people’s lives. It’s important to be able to spot the signs and symptoms of drug addiction so you can get professional help. Some of the signs of drug addiction include:
- Continuing to take a drug even if it is no longer needed
- Taking more of a substance (building a tolerance)
- Wanting to stop drug or alcohol use but being unable to
- Losing interest in hobbies and other things you enjoyed doing
- Drug or alcohol use beginning to affect day to day responsibilities
- Borrowing or stealing more for further drug use
- Physical symptoms (bloodshot eyes, fatigue, weight loss, etc.)
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when not using or drinking
Luckily, there are several different options for drug addiction treatment. Harmony Ridge offers detox programs, IOP, sober living, aftercare programs, and other options. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Give us a call today to start the journey towards a better life.