Harm Reduction in Opiate and Opioid Users

More commonly than not, people will know someone who struggles with addiction to opioids. Access to painkillers is relatively easy and availability is at an all-time high in the United States market. Learn some of the ways to reduce the potential risks for individuals who use opiates and opioids.

Harms of Use

Needle exchange programs are perhaps one of the most well-known and controversial harm reduction techniques that address disease spread by opiate injection. Methadone maintenance success aims to reduce heroin or hard opiate use by substituting less potent opioids in a controlled environment. Harm reduction techniques aim to address public health issues. Some additional harms that can come from use include:

  • Addiction
  • Death
  • Drug interactions
  • Overdose
  • Progression to more potent opiate use
  • Public order problems (crime, public intoxication)
  • Transmission of bloodborne diseases (HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C)

Top 10 Harm Reduction Approaches

Opiate harm reduction techniques to reduce or eliminate illicit opiate and opioid use exist with the goal of reducing further harm and promoting abstinence. Some of the more recent approaches to reducing opiate and opioid harm include:

  • Drug substitution
  • Drug consumption rooms
  • Health care provider interviews including drug screening, testing and contracts
  • Ibogaine treatment for opiate cravings and depression
  • Increased access to treatment services
  • Informational campaigns for prescription drug interactions and disposal
  • Needle exchange programs
  • Supervised drug injection sites

The practice of harm reduction continues to undergo research and evolution. As new tools become available to providers to target opiate use and abuse, society sets the stage for harm reduction. More can still be done but this is a good place to start.

Sustain Recovery provides adolescent care for addiction recovery. Call us if you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and needs a place to seek help without judgment.