Erasing the stigma: Part 1

This week’s topic has been all over the news, social media, and the internet: Harm Reduction Programs. People across the nation have been discussing these new clinics and Needle Exchange Programs as they pop up in their communities.

Harm Reduction is a program that strives to reduce the spread of disease due to IV drug use. This program provides a variety of useful services.

Many people have a negative view of Harm Reduction programs due to the stigma against drug abuse and addiction. But the truth is, addiction is a disease, and should be treated as such. People who suffer from various addictions deserve to be treated with respect and offered appropriate health care, regardless of their vices.

In an effort to make treatment for this disease more assessable, health officials across the nation have opened their clinic doors to addicts in hopes of reducing the spread of diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis.

These clinics offer addicts a non-judgmental atmosphere to receive the following services: counseling, needle exchange, education, referral to treatment facilities, and contraception. Naloxone kits, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, are also available with training.

Please note, these clinics are not intended to encourage or condone drug use. Instead, they are meant to offer a safe place for people with addictions to receive the help we are all entitled to as human beings.

According to the Drug Overdose Database, West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdoses in the entire nation, and 1/10 of people in the state report having an addiction to drugs. 10% of West Virginia’s population is roughly 183 thousand people.

Reading those numbers, it’s apparent that Harm Reduction clinics are necessary in our state. In fact, Harm Reduction clinics are already open and helping people in West Virginia. The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department operates a Syringe Service Program that has helped over seven thousand people since it opened in December of 2015.

Those numbers are impressive and although Taylor County is substantially smaller than Charleston, programs such as Harm Reduction and Needle Exchange could still help many of our citizens. And that’s the goal of Harm Reduction; to help drug users protect themselves and others within the community.

Next week’s editorial will be an extension of this week’s topic. We will discuss the stigma surrounding drug users, and the nature of their addiction. You might be surprised to learn that not everyone who uses drugs fits the stereotype of an addict.

For now, if you’d like more information about Harm Reduction Programs and what the Grafton-Taylor County Health Department is doing to reduce the spread of disease, contact one of our Public Health Nurses at 304-265-1288 or visit our website at

#harmreduction #publichealth #awareness

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