It is painfully obvious among both the sober and non-sober communities that a huge stigma currently faces drug addiction, addicts, and alcoholics. The general public has a widely skewed perception on drug use and addicts, and thanks to the “Just Say No” and the “War on Drugs” campaigns, this perception continues to create a divide among communities. As an effort to bring human rights back to the forefront, several organizations are coming together to try to shed light on the reality of addiction and alcoholism in the hopes of creating an open and forward-thinking dialogue. Their main goal is to widen the knowledge of the reality of addiction and push alternatives to current policies and practices to address the ever-rising numbers of addiction in the nation. This method is Harm Reduction Programs. Many people consider drug use to be a back-alley life, hidden away from the public eye, and while in some instances it can be just that, the rates of addiction in the U.S. alone are much more substantial than many people realize. According to a Columbia University study, somewhere around 40 million Americans ages 12 and older meet the clinical criteria for addiction ranging from nicotine and alcohol to a large variety of drugs. At the same time, an estimated additional 80 million Americans are considered “risky substance users” which indicates that, while they may not be physically or mentally addicted to a certain substance (or just may not realize they are,) they use tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs in ways that are considered to be risky to public health and safety. No longer is addiction something that is quietly brushed under the rug, addiction is rampant and crosses all demographics and the numbers don’t seem to be going anywhere but up. Hence the need for action. Politicians and Mothers Against Drunk Driving aren’t doing enough to solve the problem. Harm Reduction Programs have begun by getting honest about the problems facing drug users and rather than trying to continue “the war on drugs,” they are trying to make drug use safer and more understood by those affected by it. In order to do this, they have put both active and past drug users on the front line to help increase knowledge about drug abuse. For example, unless you have been living under a rock, you are well aware of the serious heroin epidemic this country faces. People are dying in the hundreds every day while others are contracting hepatitis and HIV from using dirty needles. Harm Reduction programs are realistic in recognizing that not every addict will stop using, so they are fighting for the right for drug users to have access to clean and sterile needles; families, friends and loved ones of active addicts are receiving naloxone training. Harm Reduction Programs’ main goal is to ensure that while addicts continue to use, they need to be cared for as much as possible. Harm Reduction programs have started organizational training in treatment centers, homeless shelters, prisons, and schools all over the country, to educate and hopefully protect people from continuing to use drugs or alcohol in harmful and dangerous ways. In an effort to provide a safe alternative for drug users, one of the hottest debated methods of Harm Reduction organizations is the use of supervised injection facilities where IV users can get sterile needles, medical help, hygienic amenities, and counseling. These sites are located in 66 cities around the world and have been proven to lower overdose deaths as well as reduce the rates of hepatitis and HIV, and increase the number of people who enter drug and alcohol treatment. Harm Reduction Programs are fighting for the opening of centers in New York City and San Francisco. One of the primary goals of Harm Reduction Programs is to ensure that people still in their addiction or trying to get help, are treated with respect and dignity. They are fighting on the front lines to ensure that the government sees addicts and alcoholics not as criminal outlaws with no regard for the law, but as people who have lost their way due to their disease. The programs allow current and past users to have a say in the creation and upholding of the programs and are in charge of how they will help others who still need it. They are working alongside local government to ensure that the communities are educated, understand the issues at hand and can work together to provide a safe haven for their loved ones who are still out there. The fact of the matter is drug and alcohol use isn’t going anywhere. It is a multi-billion dollar industry that cannot just be forgotten or destroyed. For better or worse, this is the state of the planet right now, and Harm Reduction Programs are doing everything they can to ensure that the fight against the drug epidemic is dealt with in a respectful and forward-thinking manner. We all know or love someone who may be struggling, and who doesn’t know how to get help. Rest a little easier knowing that Harm Reduction Programs are out there fighting for us addicts, with addicts on the front lines, who don’t judge, don’t shame, and only want to help. Getting Help At Wayside House If you are a woman struggling with addiction, Wayside House can help. We offer a women-only program and provide a safe, supportive environment to recover in. We have outstanding treatments and therapies that are often only found in more expensive programs. We offer inpatient rehab with relapse prevention education, outpatient, and aftercare. Contact Wayside House at 561-278-0055 to learn more.