Recently, I have been reflecting on how my perspective and attitude towards many parts of the recovery process have changed since I started practicing as a recovery coach.
And I cannot emphasize how grateful I am that these changes have occurred within me.
The one that has had the largest impact is my knowledge of, and view on harm reduction.
I think it’s natural as human beings for our life experiences to influence our opinions and views of certain topics. And to be completely honest, I had no concept of harm reduction when I was using or even when I first came into recovery. Because I had never overdosed, I didn’t comprehend the importance of narcan. And because I had never been on MOUD I couldn’t see all the benefits of them.
I am thankful for the education I have received that has broaden my view on such an important topic. I am no longer close minded towards harm reduction, but rather quite passionate about it.
I think harm reduction is an extremely beneficial tool in the process of recovery for the individual suffering from a substance use disorder, as well as their families and loved ones, and for the entire community.
What exactly does this term mean?
Harm reduction is seen as practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use that is centered on respect for and the rights of, people who engage in substance use.
Harm reduction helps to break down the stigma associated with substance use, as well as increase the availability of resources to individuals and potentially increase the individual’s engagement in treatment services. It is important to be intentional in conversations surrounding harm reduction strategies: emphasis on dignity, respect and compassion promotes a sense of inclusion and awareness. Avoiding punitive or stigmatizing language reduces harmful barriers while increasing opportunities for intervention and prevention.
Considering the rise of synthetic substances and the heightened risk of potential overdose, harm reduction is increasingly more imperative. There are two other factors that we have seen an uptick in that drastically increase the chance of overdose: poly-substance use, and fentanyl being mixed with non-opioid substances.
Increasing education surrounding the opioid crisis and getting narcan into the hands of community members are two vital steps in our harm reduction model.
The education I have received regarding harm reduction has made this next crucial step possible: my ability, as a recovery coach, to meet individuals exactly where they are in their process. It is important that I understand continued substance use is possible and focus on minimizing the risks involved. It is crucial that we help keep our individuals alive, by arming them with Narcan and fentanyl test strips, long enough to provide education and/or connect them to services/resources when they become ready. The use of these tools reinforces positive change in their lives and should be seen as a step towards recovery. I have gained some awareness that complete abstinence is not the only goal because ANY and ALL advancement in the process is beneficial.