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Op-ed: Biden invests in the ‘harm reduction’ approach to prevent overdose deaths

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A deadly plague continues to rage across America, and neither vaccines nor face masks nor herd immunity can stop it. The epidemic of drug overdose deaths has taken more lives than COVID-19 and is more intractable. But the Biden administration is showing a welcome openness to a new strategy.

That approach is known broadly as “harm reduction.” The idea is that drug abuse should be regarded as a public health problem, not a crime or a sin. Prohibiting and punishing drug use doesn’t work. A better option is helping illicit users modify their behavior to reduce their risks.

“I believe this administration is the first to use the term ‘harm reduction’ in its drug strategy,” said Maritza Perez, director of the national affairs office for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The risks of opioid use in particular are grave and growing. In 2019, the number of drug overdose deaths in the U.S. was 70,630, at the time the highest ever, and most involved opioids. But in 2020, the total was 93,331, an increase of 32%. Since 1999, more than 900,000 Americans have died of drug overdoses.

The epidemic has its roots in the 1990s, when drug companies released new opioids such as........

© Chicago Tribune

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