Lately, the ever growing drug epidemic has spread like wildfire throughout Red Deer. Creating a devastating effect on not only those directly involved, but for those who are seeing the repercussions spilling over into daily life. We cannot frequent any part of this city without seeing the homeless, the addicted, the paraphernalia, the pain, and the suffering.
There have been multiple posts and comments condemning political leaders, agencies, and individuals advocating for harm reduction. People are outraged at finding needles and various other paraphernalia scattered throughout Red Deer putting citizens at risk.
So what does harm reduction really mean? What is the ultimate goal? Alberta Health Services states, “Harm reduction refers to policies, programs and practices that aim to reduce risks and harm associated with the use of psychoactive substances. It acknowledges that abstinence is not always a realistic goal for some people. It is about meeting people where they are and identifying the goals they wish to achieve based on their individual needs and circumstances”. These programs include things such as, safe consumption sites, Naloxone programs and training, methadone, needle exchanges, sexual health education and supplies, psycho education regarding addiction and treatment, and harm reduction supply distribution.
What harm reduction is not, is handing out free heroin and other opiates, this is a common misconception being spread online. It is also not intended to enable the individual, or make it easier for them to “stay high”.
What I ask you though is to consider this, does writing hate filled negative comments and wishing death upon those caught in addiction solve the problem? As a community, we need to come together and find solutions for these issues, not hurl hate and negativity onto each other. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and are free to share them, we must find compassion and respect from those that differ from ours.
That is not to excuse the crime and drug paraphernalia ravaging our city; this is to insight solutions, conversation, and varying perspectives. The individuals contributing to the staggering number of property crimes in this city need to be held accountable for their actions. Our children need to be able to play freely within the community without fear of being exposed to a used needle.
Yes, these individuals chose to pick up the drug for the first time, but they did not choose how their body and mind responded. Growing up, nobody answered the question, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” with, I’m going to be an addict. They have lost complete control over their lives and are driven by a compulsion more powerful than most can even comprehend. Let’s not forget that these “addicts” are someone’s child, sibling, family member, or friend. There are families devastated, left powerless and gripped with fear that their loved one will be the next to overdose and not survive.
That said, is harm reduction the answer? Is reducing the risks of using substances the way to encourage a marginalized population to enlist in these programs? Is providing safe consumption sites the answer?
If not, what is?