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Harm Reduction- Let’s Talk about it. . . Because EVERYONE deserves a second chance

Individuals who found recovery through an abstinence-based approach will find the concept of harm reduction offensive, unrealistic, not true recovery and so on. I understand, and I cannot blame them. However, I think it is time to reconsider. I would rather consider harm reduction than death.

This is the choice when we talk about opioid abuse and most particularly heroin. Heroin can cause an overdose death with no warning. Heroin use and the number of overdose deaths are increasing. It is predicted to increase beyond our imagination and,  more restrictions are placed on prescription pain medicines and addicts turn to readily available heroin.

Administering a dose or two of Naloxone stops an overdose death from occurring. It does not encourage the addict to use more frequently, it does not stop the addict from using again, it does not instantly cause recovery, but it saves the person’s life, allowing them one more chance. 

Understanding they may take that chance and use again and they may need Nalaxone again. It is still saving their life, it is harm reduction. And everyone deserves a second chance.

Recently I attended a conference and I had the opportunity to spend time with Dan Bigg from the Chicago Recovery Alliance. He shared with me the story of a Chicago mother whose son would return soon from a long treatment and recovery from a heroin addiction. She was, of course, concerned that, back in his regular environment the temptation to use again would surface. She wanted her son to remain clean, but she also knew the dangers of heroin use, and she wanted her son to stay alive. She spoke to Dan Bigg about it, and made the decision to have Nalaxone in her home. (Illinois law allows for this.)

This mom made the decision to tell her son that, though she preferred he stay clean, if he chose to use, would he please tell her, and would he use at home so she could save his life. This mom did not give him permission to use, she merely asked for permission to save his life. This is no different than when a mother carries an Epipen for her allergic child. Carrying the Epipen does not say go run through the beehives, it says I can save your life should a bee sting you. Wearing a seat belt in a car does not give you permission to drive recklessly, it merely reduces the injuries or death should you crash the car.

Until we have a better way of preventing the use and abuse of opiods, and especially heroin, we must consider harm reduction and the distribution of Nalaxone to the public.

Did I want Aaron to use heroin? Absolutely not! Did Aaron really want to use again? Not according to his friends. The withdrawal is miserable and pride often stands in the way of asking for help. Did I even know Nalaxone existed? I did not. But now I do. I want other parents, caregivers, and loved ones to know and I want second chances for heroin users.

Everyone deserves a second chance.

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