Helping Drug Users Survive, Not Abstain: �Harm Reduction� Gains Federal Support

GREENSBORO (N.C.) The young man, who was thin, quietly surveyed the room while he waited for the supplies that would help him to live. These included sterile water and cookers to disintegrate illicit drugs; alcohol wipes to prevent infection and naloxone which can reverse overdoses. The sign at the wall reads: We love drug users as we feel, like an embrace. This was the first time the drop-in centre in a residential area had opened since the coronavirus forced them to close in spring 2020. Jordan, his first name, said that he was glad to see everyone again. A volunteer handed him a paper bag and heavy metal music played in the background. He requested extra naloxone to be given to his friends in rural County, which is an hour away. According to preliminary federal data, overdose deaths increased by almost 30 percent in the 12 month period ending in November to more than 90,000. This is consistent with recent records. There were many factors that contributed to the staggering rise in overdose deaths during the pandemic, including widespread job losses and evictions; reduced access to treatment for addiction; and an illegal drug stock that became more dangerous after the country was essentially shut down. However, the isolation of people with mental health problems and addiction may be the most severe. With the country reopening, Biden's administration supports harm reduction, a contentious approach to drug addiction that is being advocated by the center. Instead of encouraging drug users to abstain, the main goal is to lower their chances of contracting or dying from infectious diseases such as H.I.V. They will be provided with sterile equipment, tools for checking their drugs for fentanyl, and other lethal substances or just a safe place to rest.