What's harm reduction?
In its simplest definition, harm reduction means reducing the harm from activities that we do. In order to reduce the harm of a potential car accident, we wear seatbelts. To reduce the harm of riding a bicycle, we wear helmets. Seatbelts and helmets won't protect us 100% of the time in a car accident or falling off a bicycle, but it does reduce the risk of our chances for injuries. or death.
What does that have to do with injection drug use?
For better or worse, injection drug use exists. Using injection drugs puts someone at risk for HIV, Hepatitis C, infections, and overdoses if they use opiate drugs like heroin. We recognize that not everybody who uses injection drugs is ready to or wants to quit using. In the meantime, there are steps they can take to reduce their risk of harm from injection drug use. Using sterile needles and injection equipment with every injection, learning steps to prevent infections, and learning how to obtain and use Naloxone, the opiate overdose reversal medication, can help to reduce their risk of harm until when or if they are ready to stop using injection drugs. People aren't perfect, but they deserve every opportunity to be safe. Harm reduction is good public health practice in action.
How does Points West use harm reduction?
We meet participants where they are at with their injection drug use. For participants who are currently using injection drugs, we will exchange their used needles for sterile needles and syringes, provide them with new injection equipment (tourniquets, cookers, water, alcohol wipes, etc) and sharps disposal boxes, and provide information on safer injection techniques to help reduce their chances of HIV, Hepatitis C, or other infections. We also distribute Naloxone, the opiate overdose reversal medication, and provide instructions on how to respond to an opiate overdose. For participants who are ready to stop using injection drugs, we can help provide substance use treatment referrals when requested.