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Want to 'Reduce Harm'? Try Abstinence.

State of the Union: Believe it or not, there are ways to reduce drug use that do not facilitate drug use.

Diet drug Mounjaro
(Photo by Sandy Huffaker for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Supervised consumption sites, where addicts use illegal drugs in the presence of nonprofit workers tasked with reversing overdoses, are the next frontier in the “harm-reduction” movement. The New York Times reports that the federal prosecutor in Manhattan is considering shutting down one of the city's sites.

The nonprofit group, OnPoint NYC, has reportedly been operating this site with the knowledge of city, state, and federal officials for almost two years. The site they run facilitates illegal drug use.


What’s left to consider?

For context, here's the Times’s description of the group’s overdose-prevention ”strategy”:

The group’s strategy — known as supervised consumption — is simple, but radical: Let people use illicit drugs at special centers, under the watchful eye of nonprofit workers who can intervene if something goes wrong. The group, OnPoint NYC, said on Tuesday that its two overdose prevention centers have reversed 1,000 overdoses since they opened more than a year and a half ago, at a time when the drug supply contains the dangerous opioid fentanyl in growing concentrations.

There are two ways to prevent overdoses. The first is to prevent people from taking drugs. The other is to allow people to overdose, and administer Narcan to reverse the inevitable consequences of drug abuse.

The latter strategy is predicated upon harm reduction principles, which progressives apply both to risky sex and illicit drug use. Harm reduction assumes people will behave badly, and seeks to minimize the natural and inevitable “harm” associated with those behaviors. For drug users, “harm reduction” entails facilitating drug use and preventing overdose, rather than encouraging or forcing, as circumstances demand, abstinence.

Here's Sam Rivera, executive director of the nonprofit, on his work:

It is really frustrating that a health issue has become a political issue. What we know is no one ever has to die again of an overdose, ever. They’re preventable.

Of course, whether or not federal law enforcement abets the open violation of federal law is very much a “political” issue. But Rivera is right that no one ever has to die of an overdose. Structured rehabilitation programs that move the user to reduce his use, and eventually embrace abstinence, can prevent overdose and preserve the user’s dignity. Abstinence, adhered to, has a 100 percent success rate.


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