Maxim in Heroin Treatment: Limit Harm

Maxim in Heroin Treatment: Limit Harm
Posted by FoM on January 18, 2000 at 11:06:34 PT
By Warren King, Seattle Times Medical Reporter 
Source: Seattle Times
Among those who treat and analyze heroin addiction, an increasing theme is "harm reduction" - an approach that seeks to prevent deaths by heroin overdose. In King County, the number of deaths has doubled since 1990, to a record 144 in 1998. Nationally, the number in 42 cities increased 17 percent in recent years: from 3,653 in 1994 to 4,270 in 1997. More users, increased availability and stronger drugs have all contributed to the trend, experts say. 
Harm reduction "is an approach to reducing the negative consequences of those who cannot stop using drugs today," said Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center, a private New York and San Francisco-based drug-policy institute. "The challenge is to reduce death, disease, crime and suffering." Nadelmann was in Seattle last week for a conference titled "Preventing Heroin Overdose," where a variety of experts talked about ways to reduce the drug's deadly toll. Nadelmann told the more than 400 treatment specialists, researchers and others at the conference that harm reduction is common sense - akin to policies that encourage bicycle helmets, automobile seat belts and needle exchanges. "The ethical argument is that when you're trying to help people, you don't judge them. You meet them where they're at," Nadelmann said. "You may judge them on their behavior towards others, but don't judge them on their drug use as they come through the door." Nadelmann said a harm-reduction policy is not intended to encourage heroin use. Rather, it offers precautions that many drug users, especially new ones, don't know about. It could, he said, reduce the number of overdose deaths by half. Nadelmann asked those who work with drug users to spread the word about precautions and to think about policy changes: Heroin is especially dangerous when mixed with alcohol or other drugs, particularly benzodiazepines - a group of anti-anxiety agents, muscle relaxants, sedatives and hypnotics. Someone who has not used heroin in a while should not start up again with the same dose he or she was using before. Learn CPR. It could save a friend's life. When police are called about an overdose, they should not automatically seek to arrest others at the scene who might have been involved in illegal drug use. If drug users knew of such a policy, they might be more inclined to call for help. More Information:Two Web sites are available for families who deal with drug abuse, according to Susan Hubenthal, mother of a young man who died of an overdose in 1996: Grief Net: Has much information and discussion groups about how to deal with the death of a loved one, including deaths due to overdose. Family Watch: Contains information for families struggling with drug abuse, with an emphasis on children who use drugs. Published: January 18, 2000Copyright  2000 The Seattle Times Company Related Article & Web Site:The Lindesmith Center Seeks Ways to Reduce Heroin Deaths - 1/15/2000 Hassles - 1/15/2000 13-14, 2000Preventing Heroin Overdose: Pragmatic Approaches 
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: