#Addiction Treatment: Losing sight of #HarmReduction

addiction-alleySo, now their “giving addicts a place to shoot up without fear of arrest” (Economist) and, “Middlesbrough’s heroin shooting clinic opens next week – here’s where it’ll be” (Teesside Live) the media loudly mischievously shout.

But as Middlesbrough decides to “give its worst addicts two daily doses of heroin to cut crime” (Sky News), that will hopefully, at least in part, help to address the ‘health emergency’ locally; society and the media conveniently mostly forget… these issues are also facing many towns and cities across the remainder of the UK.

Society’s ignorance of ‘fact’ is rooted in emotive rhetorical headlines, spewed out on an almost daily basis by our media. Headlines that usually have a tendency to (mostly) ignore or pay lip-service to any public-health factors, let alone consider the support benefits for the individual.

Sadly, there is an existing and prominent social perception that all ‘drug addicts’ are ‘dirty criminals’ and that comes from the same media machine.

But what are we doing to support these unfortunate individuals? Many would probably ask, thanks again to the media (and politicians); “should we actually be supporting them? After all, it was their choice, wasn’t it?”

What many people tend to forget, or choose to ignore, is; many of these ‘humans beings’ as opposed to “those people” are often struggling to escape the difficult situations they find themselves in. Circumstances that too often are perpetuated by what is (arguably) a lack-lustre social support ‘system’!

Nick Wilson of Reducing Harm, writing for the DHI Vision Project recently pointed to the “urgent need” for addiction treatment service users to – “become activists once more” – as a result of the increased number of Drug-related deaths: a public health emergency. But have services really lost sight of the need for harm reduction?

There is plenty of evidence around to support what is and is not efficacious for the support of addiction recovery and public health improvements but sadly, our governments tend to only accept evidence that suits their political agenda.

My work takes me into addiction service providers all over the UK and, in my overall experience; the drive for that past harm reduction vision still (mostly) exists. At least at the front-end of many addictions treatment and support services. Too many of the issues that serve to water-down any past harm-reduction policies and ‘vision’ so often find their roots in; populist politics, money (reduced public funding) and (poor) service management. All of which are compounded by the unjust (often untrue) social misconceptions about addictions. Mostly thanks to a media machine that perpetuates social stigma and the constant criminality rhetoric.

And the drug-deaths continue to escalate! Surely we should all be able to understand why recovery advocacy organisations like FAVOR-UK are crying out on social-media… You Keep Talking We Keep Dying!

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