Harm Reduction Theory

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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” ). 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...
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