Blogpost: Let’s Address Four Common Myths About Harm Reduction

This is a blogpost written by Khary Rigg and Steven Proctor:

The US has historically been resistant to supporting harm reduction programs for people who use drugs. While some object to harm reduction approaches on ideological grounds—i.e., abstinence is the only way, drug use is immoral—most reject interventions like syringe exchange programs and maintenance medications based on commonly held myths. 

Despite considerable research evidence being available to dispel such myths, confusion about common harm reduction strategies has stubbornly persisted in the wider population, preventing them from becoming mainstream. 

Recent public interest in finding innovative solutions to the opioid-involved overdose crisis provides an opportunity to revisit long-held misconceptions. Policymakers owe it to their constituents to base their decisions about which interventions to support on the best available evidence. 

While many US harm reductionists are today advocating for “radical” approaches that also have proven efficacy, like safer consumption spaces and heroin-assisted treatment, it’s important to remember that much of the wider population is not there yet—even with more “vanilla” forms of harm reduction.

Given the severity of the current crisis, a discussion that helps debunk or at least bring clarity to myths like those below can only be valuable.

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