Yves here. While harm reduction is a valuable policy, it also says a great deal about our society that “needle exchanges” and similar approaches need to be rebranded to make them more palatable.
By Troy Farah. Originally published at Undark
The War on Drugs may profess to be waged against narcotics, but it overwhelmingly targets people — a view increasingly shared by experts on drug use. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, touched on this recently when she wrote about addiction stigma in STAT, noting that “societal norms surrounding drug use and addiction continue to be informed by myths and misconceptions.”
Starting in the 1980s, a rowdy group of individuals began advocating for a different approach to drug policy called harm reduction. These activists, researchers, social workers, attorneys, and others, from a myriad of different backgrounds, have focused on the harms of drug use — not the drugs alone.
Maia Szalavitz’s new book “Undoing Drugs: The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction” is an in-depth history of a powerful idea, exploring many angles of drug policy, including prescription drug use, supervised consumption, and legalizing cannabis. Throughout, she also details the racial inequities and social justice tensions that have defined the drug war.