Tag Archives: harm minisation

Harm reduction?


The city of Brighton in the UK is thinking of introducing drug consumption rooms, where addicts can safely inject drugs. The goal is to reduce drug related deaths as part of their harm reduction strategy. There are already drug consumption rooms in other parts of Europe.
I honestly don’t know how I feel about this. I’ve worked in harm reduction in the UK and although I understand the reasoning behind and it seems to make sense. It also doesn’t.
It’s true some addicts and alcoholics don’t want to stop drinking or using, or they have convinced themselves there is no point to life without drugs and alcohol. But to continue using means an escalation of harm to themselves and to others.
So I guess you could argue that this is about personal choice too. If someone wants to self-destruct then they have the right to do that.
So isn’t the humane thing to do to provide them some where ‘harm-free’ to do that?
It just makes me feel so sad.
That, as human beings, that’s all they’re worth. A clean supervised room in which to gouge out in.
I truly believe all addicts can and want to get clean given the right opportunity. I just believe they’re really, really, really scared and the fear becomes too much for them so they use.
I get that.
I know what it’s like to be frightened beyond all comprehension with no idea how I’m going to live this life.
Numbness was always a better choice than facing my fears. Until it wasn’t and I got help.
So my fear about these consumption rooms is that the money and resources start going into them and there is nothing left for treatment. Actual treatment where people face their fears, face their past and learn the tools they need to live clean and sober. Where addicts are treated as sick human beings not lost causes.
So they can become the people they were always meant to be. Not zombies’ sitting in a room not feeling anything.

Russell Brand focuses on addiction.

The original and unique Russell Brand spoke today at a parliamentary select committee today on addiction. Accompanying him was Chip Somers the chief executive of Focus 12 abstinence based treatment centre in the UK. (Full discloser: I trained as a therapist at Focus 12, it is an awesome facility with really dedicated staff. Hundreds of people have got clean and sober there over the years.)
Unlike the USA, the UK has a focus on harm minimisation as a primary form of treatment. This means in most cases, prescribed substances such as methadone are given to addicts as an alternative to using heroin. Thus minimising the harm of getting and using illegal drugs. Alcoholics are given drugs like anti-abuse that makes the alcoholic really sick if they drink alcohol. I think harm minimisation has its place; however in the UK all it seems to have done is replaced illegal drugs with state sponsored ones. Thus making the taxpayer the dealer. Sadly, abstinence from all mood and mind altering drugs, including prescribed ones, seems to be the very last resort for many treatment providers in the UK.
I have worked with many addicts and alcoholics who want to stop taking all drugs (especially the prescribed ones), they want to treat the root of the problem and overcome their addiction not mask it with other substances. As Russell charmingly points out, he became an addict because of “emotional and psychology difficulties and perhaps a spiritual malady.” Yet this is still not understood and there isn’t enough provision for abstinence-based treatment. The US is ahead of the UK in accepting that addiction is a disease and that abstinence is the only effective form of treatment for this disease. I don’t think this is the case yet in the UK where (judging from the comments left after the article in the Telegraph) people still believe it is a moral issue and a question of choice. This is not to absolve the addict or alcoholic of responsibility; rather it is absolutely their responsibility to do something about their disease. But they can’t do it alone. They need help. Lots of it.