How Harm Reduction Helps Heal Addiction

How Harm Reduction Helps Heal Addiction

People who have never faced addiction often can’t grasp the reality of what it means to live with substance use disorder (SUD). They might think that the solution to addiction is to just quit. Even if it’s hard, people with SUD should just detox and stay sober, right? Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t work for many individuals. There are a multitude of hurdles that can keep people from just getting sober and staying sober. An approach known as harm reduction helps reduce health and safety issues associated with drug use and heals addiction more practically. 

What Is Harm Reduction?

Harm reduction is a set of strategies and principles that were made to address the realities of living with SUD. This approach looks beyond the need for detox and sustained sobriety and tackles the underlying issues of addiction. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that “harm reduction was created by and for people who use drugs to improve health and wellbeing, including during active drug use.” 

One of the biggest goals of the harm reduction approach is to reduce the number of overdose deaths, which are currently at their highest ever. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), there were over 100,000 drug-related overdose deaths in 2022. 

To help reduce those numbers and save the lives of active drug users, harm reduction organizations pass out naloxone. Naloxone is a medicine used in emergencies to reverse an opioid overdose. Some people argue that having that life-saving measure easily available will encourage people to take as many drugs as they want, but that simply isn’t the case. Preventing the death of an active user gives them the chance to seek treatment and get better, a chance they wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

Another goal of the harm reduction strategy is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases among active users and the wider community. To accomplish this, harm reduction organizations have syringe service programs where people can access sterile syringes. Without access to clean needles, people are more likely to reuse needles, use needles they find on the ground, or share needles with other people. This is one of the easiest ways for diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C to spread. Some organizations claim that sterile syringe programs can reduce infection rates by up to 50 percent. Harm reduction helps active drug users and the community around them through practical strategies. 

Harm Reduction Helps People Facing SUD

In addition to programs that actively reduce death and disease, harm reduction helps create a space for connection and education. Harm reduction volunteers meet people where they are without judgment. Many active users don’t have access to healthcare services, which is where they might learn about receiving treatment. Harm reduction works around that barrier and comes to the people in the community who need it. In these familiar settings, people with SUD are often more open to hearing about treatment options and resources. Volunteers can educate people on overdose and disease and offer connections to counseling and rehab services. 

The harm reduction approach emphasizes creating a non-judgemental environment. Harm reduction organizations treat people with SUD with the respect and dignity they deserve. People with SUD are often treated as lesser than others, but when they are treated as equals, they’re much more open to connection. Chances are, they’ve been craving genuine human connection for a while. Isolation and alienation can lead to mental health issues and substance misuse. The cure for that is support and empathy, which harm reduction organizations are happy to supply. 

Harm Reduction at Laguna Shores Recovery Center

Laguna Shores Recovery Center believes in the effectiveness of the harm reduction approach. Ultimately, we want to help people achieve a substance-free life, but we know that it isn’t as simple as quitting. Harm reduction helps guide people with SUD to treatment while keeping them alive and healthy. There are many misconceptions and myths about the harm reduction approach, but we believe that it can and does save lives. 

One of our goals is the educate active users on the risks of drug use and help them use more safely. This can be applied to casual drug use or addiction-level use. Here are some harm reduction tips from Laguna Shores Recovery Center to apply in your everyday life if you’re planning on using drugs:

  • Avoid injection. Injection is the most dangerous form of consumption and leads to the most overdoses. 
  • Don’t give in to peer pressure. Set your own pace and limit for use. You don’t have to keep up with other people. 
  • Eat and drink water before you use. Having water and food in your system can help reduce the potency of the drug and could prevent an overdose. 
  • Set a time limit. Give yourself a time that you’ll stop partaking, and then stick to it. 
  • Don’t buy in bulk. The more of a substance you have on hand, the more you’re able to take. Buy a safe amount to prevent an overdose. 

The best way to keep yourself safe and healthy is to stop using substances altogether, but that isn’t easy on your own. Laguna Shores Recovery Center offers outpatient and residential treatment programs to help people with SUD who are ready to get sober. If you’re not ready to take that step, we understand. We can also provide you with harm reduction education and connect you with services in your area. Your health and safety is the most important thing to us, along with the health of our communities. Our staff have all been personally touched by the disease of addiction, so we don’t judge. Feel free to reach out at (866) 774-1532.