Overdose deaths in Pennsylvania more than doubled in the last ten years according to state statistics.
Almost 300,000 Pennsylvanians are currently suffering from drug addiction and many organizations are trying to curb the problem through Harm Reduction methods.
Each day 15 people lost their lives as a result of a drug overdose last year according to state statistics. The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports that so far in 2023 there have been almost 2,000 estimated drug overdose deaths. Statewide organizations are trying to help those suffering from substance use disorders by providing harm reduction programs.
The CDC defines harm reduction as a public health approach that focuses on minimizing the adverse effects of drug use. It can involve providing access to sterile syringes, naloxone distribution, fentanyl testing, overdose prevention
and education, including safer drug use education, and other activities.
“Harm reduction is an evidence-based tool in our arsenal to fight substance abuse disorders. It is something that is very important for us to use in helping our patients.”
Highlands Health has helped 147 individuals with substance use disorder so far. 30% have asked for recovery options. Harm Reduction specialists stress the fact that providing clean syringes helps reduce the spread of HIV
and Hepatitis C which in turn improve public safety.
“By giving them a clean needle we’re able to reduce the risk to those harms. It’s also not just about clean needles, because we do a lot of needles here at the clinic because we have a lot of different conditions and people who
require needles in their healthcare. It’s also looking at the individual’s injection site. Do they have an abscess or an infection? It’s about giving them personal hygiene materials. It’s also about educating them to HIV and Hep C.”
The CDC states that harm reduction programs help individuals find resources to treatment of substance use disorders.
“We know that when we put out medications or tools such as syringes or drug checking equipment to keep people safe, we can then help them move on to their next part of their journey of their life.
Whatever that is. But, if we’re not minimizing the risk and the harm to one’s health then how are we properly, effectively helping people?”
Sofronski says that harm reduction faces a large stigma because many people don’t understand it.
“Harm reduction does not enable or condone drug use. That’s the number one misconception. What harm reduction does do is saying that we acknowledge that people in your community are going to use drugs and there is nothing that we
can do because we cannot control others,”
For more information on Harm Reduction contact Highlands Health or the Pa Harm Reduction Network at pahrn.org.