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The Biden administration’s bold embrace of harm reduction will save lives

8 0 17

“Harm reduction” is a phrase previous administrations have used sparingly, if at all, when discussing drug policy. But the Biden administration not only uses it often regarding the escalating epidemic of overdose deaths, which claimed more than 100,000 lives last year; it has made it the centerpiece of its national drug control strategy.

That bold move deserves recognition. By explicitly emphasizing the term and providing funding for programs once regarded as too controversial, the administration is normalizing harm reduction and paving the way for its widespread adoption across the United States.

Harm reduction recognizes that people engaging in harmful behavior may not be ready to quit, but need help in the meantime. For example, individuals with the disease of addiction may not be ready to enter treatment, or may not have treatment easily available. Instead of penalizing or shaming them, harm reduction focuses on reducing overdose deaths and preventing the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

Some local and state health departments have piloted these programs. In 2015, when I was Baltimore’s health commissioner, I issued a blanket prescription for everyone in our city to obtain naloxone, the opioid overdose reversal drug. Our team provided naloxone to........

© Washington Post

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