Safer Drug Use & Harm Reduction
Safer drug use education is an essential pillar of any harm-reduction-centered approach to substance use.
We recognize the realities that (1) drug use is age-old, enduring human practice and (2) prohibition and criminalization have unnecessarily claimed so many lives by producing fatal stigma, accelerating the spread of infectious diseases and skyrocketing overdose mortality, and wrongfully incarcerating thousands of predominantly Black and brown people.
Thus, it is crucial that we destigmatize drug use education, make the knowledge and materials needed to increase safety accessible to people who use substances, and fight for a long overdue end to the War on Drugs.
Knowledge is the cornerstone of autonomy, and strengthening the flow of information about safer drug use is allowing a growing number of people to deliberately choose their own paths forward and avoid potential hazards.
When we take this approach to substance use, we improve any given person’s chance of developing a functional and balanced relationship with substances, for as long as they choose to use them. We also invariably lower the number of deaths related to substance use, the likelihood of trauma for people who use drugs and their loved ones, and reduce health disparities among our most vulnerable community members.
Never Use Alone HotlineConnect
Assistive Medications for Discontinuing Opioid UseLearn More
WA Recovery HelplineGet Support
The Brave AppConnect
For those working in health and human services, note that sharing this information without stigma is known to aid in the development of strong therapeutic alliances based on non-judgment and unconditional positive regard with patients and clients. Building these connections also tends to lead to greater engagement from clients and patients with supportive services and subsequently to better health outcomes. Moreover, it is crucial for care providers themselves to study this information and seek to understand the diverse array of reasons people use drugs and how they choose to do so, such that providers are capable of identifying strategies the specific needs and goals of each individual.
While there are various methods of care — behavioral (individual counseling, support groups), inpatient (detox, residential treatment), and medications (suboxone, vivitrol) — all should be administered in accordance with the National Principles of Care. Typically, the most effective approaches include coordinated care, sustainable care for co-occuring health needs, and social supports. Our approach is centered around HEP’s Syringe Services Program and the Seattle STEP Clinic, a collaborative effort with Country Doctor Community Health Centers that provides low-barrier prescriptions for medications that assist in discontinuing opioid use, housed within our Central District building.