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A lesson on harm reduction…


A couple weeks ago a mutual friend connected me with Jim, a father who lost his only child to an opioid overdose at 19 years old. Shortly after Zach passed away, Jim went to a conference and heard about the concept of harm reduction for drugs for the first time. He asked me through tears, “Why has no one ever told me about this?”

Harm reduction focuses on just that – reducing harm around drug use and addiction.

Jim took the opposite approach with Zach, even joining a support group for parents who were committed to making life harder for their addicted children until they were completely abstinent from drugs.

Now Jim has a different perspective. He wishes he could go back and focus on keeping Zach alive. Death permanently closes the door to a thriving life. Jim wishes he could celebrate each small step Zach took towards a healthier life rather than blaming him for not reaching the high bar of permanent abstinence overnight.

Harm reduction isn’t new. We already use the concept for other risky behaviors like driving (seat belts), tobacco use (voluntary cessation aids), swimming (lifeguards), etc.

Harm reduction acknowledges that some behaviors are inherently risky, and it focuses on saving lives and preventing harm to people engaging in them. Whether or not wewant people addicted to drugs, it’s a fact that millions of people are. Whether or not wewant them to be abstinent overnight, it’s a fact that most people can’t make that leap. But we may be able to keep them alive long enough to get there one day – one small step at a time.

Jim heard about harm reduction for drug use after it was too late for Zach. But it’s not too late for millions of people still struggling today.

Join us for an End It For Good event in 2022, where we explore the concept of harm reduction alongside other solutions to the addiction crisis.

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