Opinion Column

The idea of harm reduction does just that


Clearly the issue of harm reduction is a hot topic.

Frequently the public is misguided by ignorant and biased information depicting addicts as pathetic criminals, burdening our society who should be 'stamped out' and thrown in jail.

I'm no genius, but if it was really that simple, I think we would have done this a long time ago.

It is a sad reality that addiction to substances causes such devastation to humanity and society, yet throughout the history of mankind addiction lives. From the use of tobacco and alcohol, the legal drugs, (which cause more harm and death in the world than the illegal ones ever did) to cocaine, heroine, and opiates which have been around for thousands of years and now crack and crystal meth.

Addiction doesn't discriminate or select people based on social class. Many people use substances for all types of reasons ranging from peer pressure and social interaction, to more serious issues such as pain, anxiety, depression and trauma.

While many people turn to illicit substances for these purposes, their capacity to control their use diminishes depending on many factors, such as biological predisposition, social environment and traumatic life experiences.

Can we blame a fellow human for numbing the pain of reliving the repeated rape and beating from her father with heroine and cocaine -label her a criminal, instead of showing compassion and offering help? Who are we to condemn?

While not all addiction is born out of traumatic experiences or negative Environments, a large percentage is. Many of those suffering in the Downtown Eastside are direct byproducts of these tragic factors. It's not a question of how we can 'stamp out' the drug trade or addiction, the reality of our world is, as long as there is demand, there will always be supply. The real question should be: what can we do to help, treat and ease this suffering?

In order to assist people trapped in addiction, we need to first keep them alive and reduce the spread of disease and infection, hence harm reduction. Until viable solutions are implemented, those addicted will continue to abuse drugs. As long as the environment and the world around them stays the same, this problem won't just go away.

Scott Hulshof is a recovered addict and studying addictions counselor.