By Vivian Cheng Health: Period 4 Mrs. Darpino December 2011 By Vivian Cheng Health: Period 4 Mrs. Darpino December 2011 Harm Reduction Theory Harm Reduction Theory Vivian ChengHealth Period 4 December, 2011“Harm Reduction Theory” The war against drugs is an unwinnable war. Today, this seems to be a growing argument in the modern world. In a study performed in 2009, it was found that approximately 8. 7% of Americans, twelve years of age and older, had used some kind of illegal drug within the month in which the research was conducted (CDC, “Illegal Drug Use”).
That’s nearly one in ten Americans aged twelve or above. With the growing number of people supporting the argument that drug abuse is unstoppable, new ideas and theories have emerged. One example of this is the harm reduction theory. Harm reduction theory, as it relates to drug policies, is the idea that, instead of prohibiting drug use, prevention and treatment is the key to end the war against drugs (CDC, “Summary of the Top Ten Facts on Legalization” ).
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The difference between the punitive drug policies we have today and the harm reduction policy is the harm reduction policy “shifts drug policies from the criminalized and punitive end to the more decriminalized and openly regulated end of the drug policy continuum. ” ( Levine 2002 ). This means that rather than punishing drug users for substance abuse, society should regulate and ensure safer use for users. The ideas for syringe exchange programs emerged and gained popularity.
Syringe exchange programs emerged as a way to reduce the spread of STD’s, such as HIV. In a study in 2004, it was found that approximately 20% of all HIV and Hepatitis infections were caused by injection drug use. “ It is estimated that an average individual IDU ( Injecting Drug User ) injects approximately 1,000 times per year. ” In the program, sterile syringes and sterile needles would be distributed using funds from the government. However, currently, there are issues that face SEP’s.
In 47 states, there are laws that establish penalties for the distribution and even the possession of syringes ( CDC, “Syringe Exchange Programs ” ) . Some people believe that the most effective way to end opiate addiction is methadone maintenance. It is a treatment in which addicts receive injections of methadone on a daily basis. The functions of the methadone injections include the blocking of euphoria when using an opiate, relieving of many symptoms that may come with withdrawal from the opiate, and suppressing cravings for opiates.
Buprenorphine, a newer medication than methadone, acts similarly. It acts on the same receptions in a user’s brain that react to heroin and morphine. However, though buprenorphine relieves cravings for drugs, it does not produce the same intense “high” or have the same dangerous side effects. Along with the aid of addiction therapy and treatment, these medications significantly reduced the number of injection drug use in the United States.
This, in turn, helps to reduce and decrease the spread of STD’s such as HIV/AIDS ( NIDA, “ Buprenorphine: Treatment for Opiate Addiction Right in the Doctor’s Office “ ). People all over the United States are joining the harm reduction movement. As a result, several harm reduction organizations have emerged. Two organizations that have emerged include the Dancesafe organization and the Ravesafe organization.
The following is a statement issued by the Dancesafe organization: “DanceSafe is a nonprofit, harm reduction organization promoting health and safety within the rave and nightclub community. We currently have local chapters throughout the US and Canada… Our volunteers staff harm reduction booths at raves, nightclubs and other dance events where they provide information on drugs, safer sex, and other health and safety issues. We also provide adulterant screening or pill testing services for ecstasy users.
Pill testing is an important harm reduction service that saves lives and reduces medical emergencies by helping ecstasy users avoid fake and adulterated tablets that often contain substances far more dangerous than real ecstasy. ” ( “About DanceSafe” ) The following is a statement issued by the Ravesafe organization: “Whilst we neither promote nor condemn the use of drugs, we believe that if you choose to take drugs, you should be well informed of the risks involved.
Knowledge Is Power. We promote drug education and the Harm Reduction approach. ” ( “About RaveSafe and Harm Reduction” ) Both organizations are supporters for the harm reduction theory. They continue to save lives in many local communities in our country today. These organizations may be in your local neighborhood. Go online to find out more about these organizations. Another recent hot topic is the legalization of so called “soft drugs”.
Soft drugs are abused drugs that are often considered non-addictive and have only mild effects of the user. Several examples of soft drugs include, but are not limited to, cannabis, mescaline, psilocybin, and LSD. Many people who support the idea of the legalization of soft drugs argue that such strict enforcement against drug abuse has fueled the fire to the drug wars. They argue that drug crimes do not exist if drugs are legal. In Amsterdam, it is prohibited to use and/or sell any drugs, hard or soft.
However, Dutch law enforcement often allows an individual to possess a small amount of what they consider to be soft drugs to be kept for personal use. However, they make a bold distinction between what is considered to be a soft drug and what may be considered a hard drug. Soft drugs are any drugs that, if taken, have few and limited risks involved. By turning a blind eye, their government aims to keep people from turning and using harder drugs in the future. According to statistics, this method appears to be working. According to the 1995 report of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in Lisbon, the Dutch figures are the lowest in Europe [in terms number of addicts]” (“Amsterdam-Drugs”). There are, indeed, quite a few benefits to harm reduction policies. Harm reduction policies have been proven to reduce the risk of overdose and death due to overdose. They have also been shown to minimize addiction and violence within a given area. Not only that, but many people believe that these policies encourage safer drug use.
With sterilized needles, injecting drug users reduce their risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease by a great amount. If drugs were legal, one can infer that they most definitely would be easier for an individual to obtain, minimizing conflict and violence erupting over drug deals. Drugs sold illicitly also present the risk of having unknown substances in addition to the substance that they claim to be. This, in certain cases, can lead to dangers, including the threat of death.
If two drugs that are combined happen to synergize, the user of the drug may be in danger. Drug legalization and the harm reduction theory would lead to safer and cleaner sources for drugs. When there are benefits, there are consequences. There are also many, any drawbacks to harm reduction policies. If we legalized drugs, they would be easier to obtain. If drugs were easier for individuals to obtain, one can infer that more people would become users of the drug. There is data to support this reasoning.
Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the United States today. Tobacco is also commonly abused. Both of these drugs, being legal, are not extremely difficult for anybody to obtain. When there are benefits, there are consequences. There are also many, many drawbacks to harm reduction policies. If we legalized drugs, they would be easier to obtain. If drugs were easier for individuals to obtain, one can infer that more people would become users of the drug. There is data to support this reasoning.
Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug in the United States today. Tobacco is also commonly abused. Both of these drugs, being legal, are not difficult for anybody to obtain. Those against the harm reduction theory also argue that legalizing these drugs would deem it acceptable to society to abuse these drugs. Another drawback of the harm reduction theory is the funds needed to support and uphold it. These funds would have to be taken from government. Due to current events of the past years, American economy has been on a downward spiral.
Releasing a harm reduction policy would cost the country economically. Though the harm reduction theory has many favorable qualities, I feel that we should do more statistic research and conduct more studies on the effectiveness of the theory. To uphold drug legalization and regulate newly legalized drugs will take a toll on the country economically, so before we do anything, I feel that we, as Americans, should definitely know exactly what we’re getting ourselves into. Drugs have many consequences as well.
If we did start some harm minimization laws, more and more people would rely on drugs. This would present a large problem. I feel that I take on a more traditional mindset, and all in all, if I, as an individual were to decide, I would not legalize drugs, hard or soft. I feel that though prevention is vital, the drug war may never cease to exist. Works Cited “Summary of the Top Ten Facts on Legalization. ” United States Drug Enforcement Administration. December 2, 2011. <http://www. usdoj. gov/dea/demand/speakout/> Levine, H. G. 2002). “The secret of Worldwide Drug prohibition. ” The varieties and uses of drug prohibition. The Independent Review VII, 2, 165–180. “Syringe Exchange Programs. ” CDC: Center for Disease Control. USA. gov, 12/2005. Web. 5 Dec 2011. <http://www. cdc. gov/idu/facts/aed_idu_syr. htm>. “Buprenorphine: Treatment for Opiate Addiction Right in the Doctor’s Office – Topics in Brief – NIDA. ” National Institute on Drug Abuse. National Institutes of Health, Aug. 2006. Web. 21 Dec. 2011. <http://drugabuse. gov/tib/bupren. html>. “Drugs – Amsterdam – Drug Laws Amsterdam- Latest News Amsterdam. Amsterdam Escape Apartments | Amsterdam Accommodation with Friendly Hoster | Apartments in Amsterdam from Real People. WorldEscape LLC, 18 July 2011. Web. 21 Dec. 2011. ;http://www. amsterdamescape. com/Drugs. html;. “About DanceSafe | DanceSafe. Org. ” DanceSafe. Org: Drug Information and Harm Reduction Resources | DanceSafe. Org. Web. 21 Dec. 2011. ;http://dancesafe. org/about-dancesafe;. “About RaveSafe and Harm Reduction. ” RaveSafe! Just Say Know to Drugs. The MilkyWay Internet Cafe. Web. 21 Dec. 2011. ;http://www. ravesafe. org. za/about. htm;.