Maia at the Huffington Post is bemoaning the U.S. failure to adopt more harm reduction practices. Meanwhile, the recent fentanyl scare has hit Pittsburgh and “drug experts” are advising extra precautions for heroin users and suggesting keeping Narcan handy. The only mention of treatment is this single sentence at the end of the article: “Ideally, overdose patients could immediately get into long-term, intensive treatment programs, but the demand far exceeds availability.”
It’s not that I disagree with the call for more harm reduction. What I differ on is priority that HR advocates place one things like needle exchanges and Narcan distribution. In 2004 there were 93 new HIV infections due to injection drug use in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, Monroe, St. Clair and Lapeer counties. So far this year there have been more than 130 overdose deaths in Wayne County alone. We currently have addicts lined up asking for treatment and help getting into recovery and they get nothing or are underserved in a way this is not dissimilar to undertreating a bacterial infection with 3 days of antibiotics when 10 days is indicated. We should provide treatment, HIV prevention interventions, and overdose prevention interventions. However, if people currently seeking recovery are denied adequate help, we should give them the help they are asking for first.