SYRINGE ACCESS PROGRAMS & PEER-DELIVERED NALOXONE ENDORSED
A landmark report on alcohol and other drugs released today by the U.S. Surgeon General endorses harm reduction and specifically refers to syringe access programs as a “important strategy.” The first ever report on the topic by the Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy also highlights the role of harm reduction in meeting people ‘where they’re at’ by acknowledging that harm reduction programs meet the “needs of those who are not yet ready to participate in treatment” and those “who may not be ready to stop substance use – offering individuals strategies to reduce risks while still using.”
The report refers to problematic drug use as the countries most pressing public health concern and cites that nearly 21 million Americans – more than the number of people who have all types cancers combined – suffer from alcohol and other drug dependence.
The report, titled Facing Addiction in America: Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, also cites the benefits of peer-distributed naloxone to reverse opioid overdose fatalities: “take-home doses of naloxone along with education and training for those actively using opioids and their peers and family members, have the potential to help decrease overdose related deaths.”
“These (harm reduction) programs work with populations who may not be ready to stop substance use – offering individuals strategies to reduce risks while still using substances. Strategies include outreach and education programs, needle/syringe exchange programs, overdose prevention education, and access to naloxone to reverse potentially lethal opioid overdose. These strategies are designed to reduce substance misuse and its negative consequences for the users and those around them, such as transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases. They also seek to help individuals engage in treatment to reduce, manage, and stop their substance use when appropriate.”
The Surgeon General’s personal introduction to the report addresses drug-related stigma and he personally states that “stigma has created an added burden of shame that has made people… less likely to come forward and seek help.”
Dr. Vivek Murthy’s closing remarks in the preface of the landmark report echo what Harm Reduction Coalition has been advocating for more than two decades:
“Above all, we can never forget that the faces of substance use disorders are real people. They are a beloved family member, a friend, a colleague, and ourselves.”
Harm Reduction Coalition stands with the Surgeon General in calling for a public health approach to substance use. This report will be vital for the harm reduction community in our collective education and advocacy efforts for years to come.