Harm-Reduction Fantasies

New York City’s dedication to the principle of “harm reduction,” which dominates human-services training and practice throughout much of the West today, hasn’t helped. The provision of Naloxone, an opioid antagonist that can quickly reverse an overdose, to 20,000 NYPD officers has been lauded as a lifesaver. Dozens of lives have indeed been saved through application of Naloxone, but once a drug user has been revived this way, he can’t be arrested or otherwise forced into treatment because the threat of such intervention would be likely to dissuade users or their associates from calling for help in the first place. So the overdoser is treated like any accident victim and left to his own devices once his condition stabilizes. (The pop singer Prince was reportedly revived with Naloxone a few days before his fatal overdose.) Thus, harm reduction—whether intentionally or not—normalizes the underlying behavior, minimizes the psychological shock of overdose, and perhaps makes it easier for addicts to keep using.

Click here to read the full publication →