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The Transformative Power of Harm Reduction

We have a natural desire to alter consciousness, and we should be armed with knowledge and tools to do so safely. That’s the basic gist of harm reduction.

Rather than presuming that abstinence is the most effective approach to addiction recovery, harm reduction offers guidance for safe substance use.

Harm reduction public policy has become entrenched in sensible cities like Vancouver, because it is humane, cost-effective, and logical. Examples of harm reduction programs include safe injection sites and decriminalization.

It may be helpful to remember that we already use a harm reduction framework when it comes to legal substances like alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis. Instead of prohibition, we opt to limit who can purchase these substances and where they can be consumed.

Now is the time to discuss harm reduction strategies for all other classes of drugs, as we may be on the verge of decriminalization.

As decriminalization of drugs looms, now is the time to build resilience in communities all over Canada through harm reduction strategies. Resilient communities recognize that there will always be people who use or abuse drugs. Rather than stigmatize or criminalize, we can offer compassionate evidence-based care. Psychedelic-assisted therapies may be of use in treating the root causes of addiction.

Let’s start a conversation about how we can expand harm reduction to be prepared for the decriminalization of drugs, psychedelic and otherwise. At the very least, harm reduction needs to be built into the training given to educators, police officers, and first responders.

Harm Reduction is gaining traction as an effective strategy (both in terms of cost and outcomes).

The Zendo Project is one of the premier harm reduction organizations in the psychedelic space. Before COVID, the Zendo Project focused their work on large gatherings like music festivals and Burning Man. Post-COVID, we need options beyond the Zendo Project for building resilience in communities.

Harm reduction may include some of the following features: 1. Easy, anonymous access to mental health services including peer support. 2. Easy, anonymous access to product testing. Also, legal drugs equals clean and safe drugs. 3. Public education 4. Trauma-informed care and also culturally-appropriate care 5. Diverting individuals away from the criminal justice system whenever appropriate, and having in place a wealth of healthcare resources available 6. Using psychedelic-assisted therapies to treat the root causes of addiction.

Recreational use of psychedelics and related classes of drugs will occur, so let’s make sure psychonauts make their journeys safely.

We can begin by developing courses, books, and other learning material to promote responsible drug use.

Writing self-help guides to psychedelic tripping could be another useful method of harm reduction.

How do you envision harm reduction practices? What are your ideas for promoting safe and responsible drug use?

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