harm reduction

Seth Herald / for Side Effects Public Media

On a recent morning in downtown Tippecanoe County Indiana, a standing-room-only crowd showed up for a county commissioners meeting. The issue at hand? Renewing the county’s syringe exchange program.

It's always appealing to think that there could be an easy technical fix for a complicated and serious problem.

For example, wouldn't it be great to have a vaccine to prevent addiction?

"One of the things they're actually working on is a vaccine for addiction, which is an incredibly exciting prospect," said Dr. Tom Price, secretary of Health and Human Services.

Another State Toys With Providing A ‘Safe’ Space To Shoot Up

Jun 19, 2017
Rhonda Biggs / Courtesy of the Biggs family

Tawny Biggs’ seemingly happy childhood in the northern Los Angeles County suburb of Santa Clarita, Calif., showed no outward sign that she would one day struggle with drug addiction.

Public Restrooms Become Ground Zero In The Opioid Epidemic

May 15, 2017
Håkan Dahlström / http://bit.ly/2pOfaKF

A man named Eddie threaded through the midafternoon crowd in Cambridge, Mass. He was headed for a sandwich shop, the first stop on a tour of public bathrooms.

“I know all the bathrooms that I can and can’t get high in,” said Eddie, 39, pausing in front of the shop’s plate-glass windows, through which we can see a bathroom door.

Dr. Jessie Gaeta, chief medical officer at the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, inside the conference room where heroin users are monitored while they ride out a high.
Jesse Costa / WBUR

It's  just a quiet room filled with comfortable chairs, stocked with oxygen tanks and blood pressure cuffs. But it's likely the only place of it's kind in the country - a safe place where drug users can come to sit out a high under medical supervision. 

As nurse April Donahue tells WBUR's Commonhealth, the experience is different from working with this population in the past. 

Vermont Sees 'Significant Shift' Toward Treating Addiction In A Doctor's Office

Jun 15, 2016
James Rebinskas
Lynn McCrea / Vermont Public Radio

Opiate addiction and how best to treat it continues to be a focus in Vermont. And that includes the question of where to provide medication-assisted treatment.

Often, people are seen in one of Vermont’s five main treatment centers, or "hubs." But lately, physicians are being encouraged to see such patients in their own local practices.

When she was 17, Tracey Helton Mitchell was prescribed an opioid pain killer after getting her wisdom teeth extracted. The medicine helped her deal with the pain related to the extraction, but when the prescription ran out, her desire for its euphoric high remained. That's when she turned to heroin.

Svante Myrick speaking at a press conference.
Tom Magnarelli / WRVO

Ithaca, New York, population 30,000, is a small city with a big plan to counter heroin addiction, announced by mayor Svante Myrick Wednesday.  The strategy includes a 24-hour crisis center, a new office of drug policy, and something that’s never been tried before in the United States: a medically supervised site where drug users could inject heroin.

On Friday afternoons, several dozen people line up in the narrow hallway of Prevention Point Philadelphia. The men and women, all ages, hold paper and plastic bags full of used syringes.

"We obviously have a space challenge, but people come in, they drop off their used syringes and they ask for what they need," says Silvana Mazzella, the director of programs at the service center for injection drug users.

When Priscilla Graham-Farmer went to get her hair done in Newark, N.J., recently, she noticed the elevator in the building was broken, so she took the stairs. And that's when Graham-Farmer saw him: a young guy sprawled out, not breathing.

"He was literally turning blue," she says. "And everybody was walking over him."

But Graham-Farmer stopped. And looked closer. She saw that he had a needle and some cotton balls. The guy had clearly overdosed.

"I'm screaming in the hallway," Graham-Farmer remembers. "Nobody's answering."