Harm reduction doesn’t encourage people to take drugs but gives them proper knowledge to avoid overdosing, according to Kristyn Davies, an intern with the AIDS Committee of Durham Region. She was on campus this semester as part of a panel at an event called Harm Reduction 101.
She said the main idea of harm reduction is to break the stigma around the practice of taking drugs or contracting HIV through intravenous drugs.
“If you say, like, that’s not happening or I’m not going to do it, it doesn’t mean that it’s not happening in society,” said Davies. “We are working with the community and not for them.”
Harm reduction also provides support to HIV patients. Sometimes people are afraid to ask for help and providing them with the correct medical help can save lives, said Davies.
However, there are some challenges in creating awareness about the risks of substance abuse. “There’s a huge stigma around it so a lot of people are afraid to talk about it,” said Davies. “Parents, I think, are always afraid, like why’d you teach my kids about drugs? We are teaching it so they understand the risks and so they can be smarter about it if they choose to use it.”
She said sometimes when a person has stopped breathing or fainted due to overdosing it’s better to tell the police that the person has lost consciousness. Because of the stigma, she said, police might not treat the case more seriously, thinking the person did that to themselves.
Drug abuse is also very common among the LGBTQ community especially if people can’t get good paying jobs after their identity is revealed, said Bill Kuvla, an audience member at the seminar.
“Among people who are more marginalized,” said Kuvla, “as a result of mental stress, they end up abusing drugs.”
Some students at Durham College feel although drug abuse is more common in high school and college there isn’t much awareness about it.
“It’s been in society for a while, but I think right now it’s especially getting talked about, especially with the up rise in talking about mental health,” said Veronika Permaul, a Social Service student at Durham College.
“People are going to make their choices,” said Permaul, “It’s better to have them do something the safest way possible versus to completely exile them from any help or any options.”
The event was visited by fewer than 20 people since it was a very sensitive topic, said Jordan Tan, one of the organizers of the event.