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What is harm reduction? Why would we want to offer harm reduction to people? Does harm reduction already exist in other areas of life? Does harm reduction limit people’s desire to find recovery? Is harm reduction killing people? We talk with Jerah about harm reduction and how it looks in action in a small, rural community. Listen in and tell us why you agree or disagree with harm reduction methods. Join the conversation by leaving a message, emailing us at RecoverySortOf@gmail.com, or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or find us on our website at www.recoverysortof.com.
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What is harm reduction? Why would we want to offer harm reduction to people? Does harm reduction already exist in other areas of life? Does harm reduction limit people’s desire to find recovery? Is harm reduction killing people? We talk with Jerah about harm reduction and how it looks in action in a small, rural community. Listen in and tell us why you agree or disagree with harm reduction methods. Join the conversation by leaving a message, emailing us at RecoverySortOf@gmail.com, or find us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or find us on our website at www.recoverysortof.com.
recovery sort of is a podcast where we discuss recovery topics from the perspective of people living in long-term recovery this podcast does not intend to represent the views of any particular group organization or fellowship the attitudes expressed are solely the opinion of its contributors be advised there may be strong language or topics of an adult nature
welcome back it’s recovery sort of i’m jason a guy who has tried to reduce his own harm and i’m billy i’m a person in long term recovery and we’re here with jarrah hi hi tara i’m jarrah i am cecil county harm reduction supervisor yay yay i don’t know what that means we’re going to talk about harm reduction today because that was a requested topic by people who listen and uh you know i i don’t know exactly where we’re going if we’re going to talk about local harm reduction or harm reduction as a whole but it’ll be an interesting conversation i mean i i think harm reduction is something that many of us who who aren’t completely informed on harm reduction don’t really get i know as a guy in recovery i feel like i was against harm reduction methods for a long time just i was like no you gotta be 100 clean and if you can’t do that then [ __ ] it it’s enabling yeah you’re just helping people die that’s it so we want to help other people understand that that is not what harm reduction is about and we’re gonna let jarrah talk about herself for now oh and can i just say real quick so we do plan in the future to have someone on to talk about medicated assisted treatment and go into that whole realm of harm reduction uh we may touch on that today but that isn’t the basis of what this episode was going to be about but we do plan to have a future episode specifically about medicaid assist treatment matt we’re going to talk about matt yeah so anyway sorry to interrupt jira go ahead again i’m jarrah i am a person in long-term recovery and um i’m also cecil county voices of hope harm reduction supervisor here voices of um so i just wanted to talk about what harm reduction is um to me and how it affected my life so i had the same views as jason here it made no sense to me i’m from new jersey and if there wasn’t a big harm reduction community there when i was using and um i came to maryland and there was harm reduction here which looked like homeless outreaches people other people in long-term recovery whatever that looks like were coming out to like homeless camps and giving narcan and you could get a syringe card um and they would give you clean use things and they would i just knew people in long-term recovery so i um was homeless here in elkton and uh i my first interaction with harm reduction was homeless outreach um i was pregnant and uh had used narcan a bunch of times so they they stocked me up on narcan then it was i am narcan so it wasn’t like the easy no spray stuff that it is now um and i also like in that moment when i came from new jersey had active infections so i had already contracted hepatitis c um from sharing syringes i have a um syringe tip stuck in my neck still from reusing needles over and over again which caused you know i didn’t want to go to the hospital because i was going to be judged there and all those things i think getting new syringes from people who talk to me like i was human made a difference and lessened my chance of dying i do know like a random it’s not so random um a random statistic that people who um utilize harm reduction services need to exchange narcan services other outreach services um are five times more likely to seek treatment and i was i knew where to i knew where i could go when i was ready and uh that’s what i did and uh the narcan saved my friends lives i thankfully had never been narcan at that point um however i did save a couple lives with with the narcan and now i am also curative hepatitis c which um harm reduction linked me up with um providers to treat that while you were still using they linked up with that no however when i was using you had to have a minimum of um two years clean in order to be linked up wow now you do not there is no requirement for um getting the cure and people don’t really know that because the people who are in active addiction are still in active addiction and think there’s a requirement for that right that’s crazy like yeah well you know before we go saving your life let’s why don’t you prove to us that you’re actually we’re saying we gotta say if you’re worth it yeah we’re gonna so i want to go back and just touch real quick uh you said i am narcan which is intramuscular i believe that’s where you inject it instead of the nasal spray yes it’s not just like a catchy thing like mr ducks like i have narcan yeah yeah you have to draw it up in a syringe it comes you have to uncap it it takes time to actually do and most people don’t know what there is a specific like you have to push the area out and um and then you just push it into them in their muscle anywhere in their muscle their leg their butt their arm i have just now decided that we need a narcan grenade just i mean i mean people would like who doesn’t want to use a grenade right like i feel like everybody in the world would go for narcan if they were like i can just like pull the pin and toss the grenade in the room and save somebody’s life that would be awesome oh but then the other people in the room would be pissed so mad nobody else narcan are pissed let alone the guy who is just innocently grenaded yeah
so just about harm reduction so it is kind of a general term it i mean it does sort of mean as you talked about before it’s kind of like just reducing the risk of things um in drug addiction it’s taking on a different uh i don’t know which idea or it gets a lot of conversation based on stigma and things like that but we’ve used this concept of harm reduction in you know alcohol consumption for years they didn’t specifically label it harm reduction but the idea that you don’t drink alone that you you know when you go out you have a designated driver that you make sure you have so many drinks within a certain amount of time that you eat you know food and drink water during your drinking you know these were all ideas that were considered just general health safety things to keep yourself from you know alcohol overdose or blacking out or whatever and that seems perfectly acceptable like we almost everyone accepts that as just good ideas safe practices you know it’s helpful for the community to know this information but when it came to harm reduction around drug use that took on a whole different you know oh my god we’re enabling people we’re allowing them to use we’re we’re supporting drug use and it got lost that there are a lot of benefits you know obviously to the individuals i mean you’re as you said we’re reducing different you know diseases in the community different health risks and things like that um but what are so from your experience like what are some of the benefits for the individual who’s involved in like a harm reduction program so for me as like an active user either or what you see now i mean if it wasn’t specifically for you you worked with enough people you could see different results for that yeah it’s kind of the um i mean it’s the same if not better now um when i was using and something you said just made me think of um the whole spiel that you just said about alcohol the tips for harm reduction iv injection drug addict users is like don’t use alone um leave narcan out not in your purse um go slow do test shots like all these general things um and we’re gonna use anyway and i say we as like i am the drug addict um we’re gonna use anyway and i you know myself have proven that when i picked up syringes off the ground and used them um so being able to not spread the disease it’s a little bit more also so when you get into um like addiction and and stuff you get into things like sex work and stuff like that and that becomes a really um odd topic um like we we also give like condoms and dental dams and all those things um i don’t know what i’m allowed to share but i was a sex worker and um not being safe um i ended up with gonorrhea and who knows how many husbands i gave that to seriously like and and that i can’t imagine like oh honey right you know like what is happening right now um so you know we work with the sex workers here in cecil county and like i just share my story with them and i’m able to convince them you know to seek safe sex use yeah and so as a person in long-term recovery as jason said i think historically up until probably five maybe 10 years ago my attitude towards any kind of harm reduction is you know it’s enabling you know we shouldn’t be doing it people need their consequences to hit their bottoms you know it’s similar [ __ ] that we think all the time but the way that sort of progress through least cecil county and voices of hope kind of being involved in the early parts of that was initially it was just narcan and some safe sex supplies and maybe alcohol wipes and some general health things that were needed in some of these homeless encampments um and it was like the idea was look people are living this way we just need to be good you know human beings to other people we want them to be healthy and safe whatever choices they make they should have some general uh health safety things provided for them so it was through that community outreach and then slowly that grew um one having that slow approach helped present it to the whatever you want to call it political community a little bit easier because they weren’t talking about uh needle exchanges yet or you know did the drug testing yet like they weren’t talking about those things yet although they sort of were planned for down the line but it was an easy introduction to narcan you know health supplies safe sex things all things that would help reduce transmission of diseases in the community and help people that are in need um and then it slowly changed to be in more controversial topics like you know needle exchange and things like that um i know i just mentioned a few but what generally are the the harm reduction methods that we’re using now at least here in cecil county yes so here in seesaw county um at voices of hope is where i’m the harm reduction supervisor so we give bags of syringes that have 10 syringes so 10 use safe use things in them and um we only give up to 20 at a time so we’re not giving them massive amounts that are just all over the place um we want that peer encounter with them which is what makes them um more likely to come back um i think i know factually that our return rate so they use syringes we do collect them we give them safe containers to um put them in i know from coming from camden new jersey that was not the case out there they were not in containers they were all over the streets and um so encouraging people to give back they use supplies and we collect over 100 percent of what we give out yeah that’s pretty amazing and i think that’s one of the things that is beneficial to again it’s beneficial to the community i mean unfortunately you know i’ve coached little league here in cecil county and you’ll be down at the fields and there have been times where there have been syringes in the you know dugouts and things like that because that’s a i guess sheltered environment where people will go to use and having programs that will encourage people to return those things again is just beneficial to the community as a whole besides just the using person we also like go and collect those so like i can send a team out on known places where people use you know hey can you just go double check um sometimes we’ll maybe not in a ball field but in the homeless communities will leave narcan just sitting on a post um things like that yeah
why never mind i was gonna ask why we’re not leaving the ball fields but yeah who’s using dental dams i’m sorry i’m not 100 sure they’re not popular and everybody thinks they need a magnum that’s literally the request the highest request do you have any magnums like no i mean you know we’re not going to get into whether i’m big or small but it was never smaller than when i was high i’ll say that right like that definitely [ _ ] up my blood flow or whatever uh you know i was thinking oddly enough i’ve probably been against these harm reduction methods in my recovery for drug use i don’t think i would have ever been against condoms yeah sure give out all the condoms i mean health department’s been doing that forever yeah who gives a [ _ ] things with condoms in the bathroom just so people will take them yeah but if you tell people you’re giving them out to sex workers they want to have a [ _ ] panic attack why is sex work illegal just doesn’t make any sense to me i don’t get it um you know you were talking about uh giving the husband’s gonorrhea to go back to that i was thinking like well what are people’s arguments against this because yeah you know we talk about harm reduction as we why would we go out of our way to help those people you know as if addicts or some other type of people um but i think the reasons we do it is because we we differ them they’re they’re different than us they do those things but when we say well harm reduction prevents community spread of diseases as well it’s not just for that community it’s for the entire community at large but i feel like you know i was just trying to picture this like older christian wife that might be against this i don’t know why that came to mind is who would hate this idea but you know these ideas of like well my husband’s not going to shoot drugs and he’s not going to go you know mess with a prostitute so why do we need to prevent like that’s not going to spread in my community and i mean yeah we can just say well you’re being naive miss um but how can we convince people like that who don’t see the benefit to really buy in it’s it’s hard to convince the people like that but it does affect the whole community um the first thing that came to mind when you were when you were speaking was um i don’t think people hate the harm reduction tactics i think people um dislike us when we’re in active addiction um it’s kind of painful we’re we’re looked at as different um maybe not worth saving um i know a lot of people um disagree with narcan as an active user when i was an active user i disagreed with narcan please don’t narcan me it will make you sick um yeah and i think we’re not in in that act of addiction we’re not begging to live like it’s not we’re at a dark place in our life but um every it’s so big i’m going to talk about cecil county it’s so big and popular um out here that it everyone knows someone and if you don’t you just don’t know but they’re doing it um and it’s not everybody doing it but we’re all affected by it um as a whole i think we’ve met some providers like doctors and stuff and their like kids were overdosing and you know they thanked us um coming out and getting the syringes off the streets um and just being able to be safe like they’re people get stuck on that they just shouldn’t be doing it they just shouldn’t be doing it no [ _ ] like we we know like if it was as simple as like stop getting high i mean we we’d all just be okay right well and i have noticed too you know being in this community a long time and talking to a lot of families addicts and non-addicts like what you start to find out when you dig into some people that are really against a lot of this stuff is that they have a grandson a nephew a family member who either overdosed or is doing drugs and stealing from the family and so they’ve had this built-in resentment that has come out of their own trauma that now they’re just angry and bitter and resentful that this loved one of theirs is caught up into this addiction thing and so they want someone or something to blame you know and and they just want him to stop you know what i mean they just want him to stop and go back to being little joey that he was when he was 10 you know and stopped stealing the goddamn christmas money you know yeah totally pawning your christmas presents you know this is a terrible idea obviously i will tell you that beforehand but just going back to this grenade idea of narcan right if we could combine the worlds of what people like that might be against narcan or or harm reduction and what’s needed what if we had you know how they have like the tranquilizer darts what if we had guns loaded with like narcan darts and handed them out to everybody i feel like everybody was like yeah great just ride through the community blasting people like saving lives i don’t know so for the community outreach over here at uh harm reduction of voices of hope like what what are the normal encounters like do people come to you do you guys go to them is it both like what how do you encounter people that want to get involved in the program so all of the things we um that you just mentioned and so much more so we go into the community we have a team of people harm reduction people that go to the homeless encampments like if we hear or um you know we just see homeless encampments we’ll go back there and um voices it wasn’t always known but we are now usually with like the larger um using population that we have services that can help them um we do that we do we go to the day centers and stuff like that we also do outreach walks so like walks that are in the communities um that can’t get to us the communities when i was using i didn’t drive i wasn’t going to seek you know
help when i wasn’t ready and uh so we do those kind of outreaches we also have a fixed site so people can walk in um seven days a week and get syringes a lot of people come to us for narcan it’s like so we it’s free it’s we will throw it to you in grenade like this um i we always talked about me and the nurse talked about it on like a t-shirt shooter and a voice is a t-shirt with narcan wrapped in the middle and just like shoot it out at the people yeah we always talked about that um and now voiceove has a huge part of harm reduction here in cecil county is um the wound care nurse and that’s i work with him on a day-to-day basis and uh the wounds and the and the it’s not it’s unlike something places like cecil county has ever seen hospitals don’t know how to treat these wounds um we don’t know how to treat these wounds we had to do a lot of investigating so it’s just a lot of like keeping up to date on like what’s happening the drug world is changing so much imagine if your walks had people in purple and white camouflage right suits and they had their little m16 like narcan dart launchers and and look we could we could make it like they could be slow shooting right so it could be like dodge ball so anybody you you know if the person’s high or not because they’ll move out of the way right and if they’re hiding people high they’re not moving they’re usually the ones that are not they’re the ones that need the narcan so they’ll get hit that’s perfect yeah you won’t have any collateral damage of innocent bystanders getting hit uh i mean i just feel like so many more people would volunteer for that job if that was the case they’d be like yeah i want to march through shoot people
yeah that wouldn’t work so it might i’m telling you i’m onto something here we just make it fun so like i am that like i’ve told people like what if we get a t-shirt shooter like all the time in the homeless camps so uh me and me and jason is the nurse and we just go out and um show people that like there is hope and like i can also share with him like hey i was a sex worker i get it i was homeless um i get it and i started volunteering and like um recovery became fun so i and part of this stigma of not i don’t want to say not wanting to get help or clean or in recovery i think there’s this piece though of once you become alienated by the addiction you just assume that you’ll never be accepted by the world again and so it’s great that there’s people going into these places and giving them compassion and empathy and treating them like a human being right but i still would bet that there’s still a piece of well had she not been here she still wouldn’t accept me so it’s not like if i get in recovery and go out in the real world i’ll be accepted imagine how much more powerful it would be and i’m not trying to take away from what you do but like if just you know mary jane who’s a [ _ ] bank teller who has never messed with drugs and has no affiliation with it was able to go and treat them you know or treat anyone like a human like i just feel like that would be so powerful to break it’s just above people’s um mind span sometimes and you just don’t understand you know trying to tell my mom like you know heroin and methamphetamine like put a gun in my head and said like i’m gonna steal that christmas money um you know it was or you know that my kids were in the way and like i couldn’t take care of them because i couldn’t get high that came first but today it’s totally different like um my kids my recovery all those things come first you just don’t think in that moment you can get out hmm does mom know about the john’s and the gonorrhea okay so we have to cut that out just make sure um you know thinking myself about this this five times more likely to get into treatment or seek treatment if you are part of a harm reduction community that makes a lot of sense to me because as a guy who was getting high i was also a guy who was like terrified and paralyzed by the idea of interacting with the world i would have never ever ever in a million years called for [ _ ] treatment and tried to get in myself like the only ways i got to treat moves because mom i was like man i need to get in treatment you need to make phone calls like i am not doing that that’s for sure and thankfully i had somebody that was so desperate they were willing to do the work but i i feel like by having the harm reduction you are that person right you they can come here anytime and ask for help and that’s exactly what the services here will provide but you’re making that connection where they have that resource for all the people whose situations have led to not having mom willing to do that anymore right yeah and that’s that’s incredible so it’s not a shock to me that people are willing to to seek treatment more often yeah there have been times in homeless communities in um out in you know regular homes in the um wound care calls that we go out to that people you know we know that they’re at that point of like desperation and um we literally say get in the car if you want to do this let’s get in the car right now and we’ll take you and we’ll figure this out we’ll get you in somewhere today if not you if we can’t you know you will find something we’re not going to let you go and we’re going to put in as much effort as you do right yeah that’s awesome you know and we’ll make all those phone calls we will make all the posts well there’s a part two there i know at least for me when i was using like i felt like i had to defend my using to everyone around me and justify and rationalize it to my family to my friends to other people well my friends that were not using like me and i think you get in that defensive place where you feel like you got to justify what you’re doing and you know i believe when you get into a harm reduction program it sort of takes some of that away like you don’t need to defend what you’re doing you’re doing what you’re doing and that’s fine we whatever we’re not trying to hear to pass judgment and it gives you a minute to sort of assess that a little better you know like assess where you’re at and maybe possibly be a little more honest about you know the help that you need or that you don’t really like the way that you’re living i mean if i spend all my time convincing you that i’m completely fine the way that i’m using you know i don’t have to look at how i’m actually living or what i’m doing right and i mean that’s a a strong psychological concept this idea of like balance or homeostasis or regression to the mean like all these tie in if you come in a far left place of you know what the [ _ ] billy this is terrible for your life the natural reaction is for billy to go far right to create the balance right to create that median point and that mean between them so when we stop pushing people of what they have to do there’s much more space for them to meet you in that same middle ground they don’t have to automatically go the opposite you know extreme yeah and so i i think through harm reduction that’s what’s happening is like you’re meeting people where they are and just letting them know hey you don’t need to justify or rationalize anything you do what you need to do you’re a human being you deserve love and you know you deserve to be treated like a normal person uh whether you’re making good decisions or bad decisions is up to you to figure out you know and help them sort of have access to things when they’re ready yeah that’s beautiful yeah that’s completely harm reduction summed up from what both of you said it makes it so it’s a beautiful process when you see someone go through that process you know i don’t think these statistics are out there but and i don’t know how the hell they would measure this but i bet if they could find a way to measure i hate to call it the success rate but maybe the length of time before any sort of relapse between someone who’s never encountered harm reduction and somebody who has i would bet people who have encountered harm reduction in their community stay longer even if it’s just for a little longer because if you think about it like when i walked into my first you know recovery environment i didn’t [ _ ] know anybody it was scary it was weird and luckily i kind of got a little well actually not the first time but eventually i got plugged in a little bit but i feel like if you have been interacting with the recovery community through harm reduction methods you kind of come into recovery a little plugged in like you know some people you’re a little comfy you’re like oh hey i’ve seen you a few times you came and helped out and and maybe even damn can i get involved in that too because i’d like to give back and go check on people and and now i’ve got a little sense of purpose and of doing something positive i don’t know i just feel like that would really benefit somebody early on well that’s pretty much your story right i mean yeah you got involved with harm reduction and then got into recovery and now you’re doing this kind of work so yeah yeah so some people that you know i work with people um as coworkers as bosses who like help get me into treatment yeah wow yeah that’s amazing and i bet when you go back out there you see people i’ve used with so but that that you know us as harm reductionists um are able to share that hope like they know these people know in our community because it’s our community this is where most of us have used so i go on an outreach in the manor or something and uh see people i used with and they’re like most of them don’t recognize me at first um some of them that’s a good thing some of them you know i’m like hey and uh they’re like holy [ __ ] like i thought you died right like most of the time they think you’re dead and you know um just to be consistent in the community um i’ve been able to get some people that i’ve used with into treatment yeah it’s not a shock i mean it was one of those thoughts i had early on in my recovery was oh that works for you but it could never work for somebody as sick as me but to see i mean no offense with this but to see somebody who you saw sick as you on the street like you’re like oh maybe there is something that could work for me that’s wild this episode has been brought to you in part by voices of hope inc a non-profit recovery organization made up of people in recovery family members and allies together members strive to protect the dignity of those that use drugs and those in recovery by advocating for treatment harm reduction and support resources and mentoring please visit us at www.voicesofhopemaryland.org
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so was there anything i mean is there any like thing that you can point out like what helped you make the transition from actively using to wanting recovery or did you always want recovery or um i was okay for a while you know on the streets it becomes so normal right people are doing exactly what you guys were talking about just pushing me stop using drugs like it’s so simple um so pushing me to do that i justified the way i was living like this is you know how i want to live almost um so then it became normal so i didn’t know it was you know it was a horrible way to live um i knew i didn’t like it it wasn’t comfortable um but i i defended it so much that you know it was easy and then everyone around just living that way too so everyone’s right and um exactly so uh oh god i totally forgot the question oh so was there something for you that yeah sorry i interrupted you was there something for you that triggered the transition from active use into people treating me human that was the biggest thing the people treating me human um seeing other women um that we think you know we’re broken once we’re a prostitute by a lot of state prostitutes okay whatever you want um in harm reduction we say sex worker okay um yeah um is that i mean that’s probably nicer right i mean to me it’s all the same i was telling my body it didn’t matter if it was on back page or on the corner um it didn’t feel good either way you know um so i think when people came out into the community which is where i met voices in the harm reduction team um they were like talking to me that’s it that’s the end they were just talking to me and i was like what like what do you want from me everything’s a transaction um it doesn’t matter everything’s a transaction you want something or you know something um and they did they knew how to live without drugs it was crazy um and it all didn’t look the same so i know like um i’ve listened um to your guy’s show before and like talking about like it doesn’t always have to look like a 12-step program um and you know as a harm reductionist i do work a 12-step program however i support all of the things um we have like smart recovery and maintenance and all those things that we anything you can think of it can be a pathway to recovery it can support your recovery so people are afraid to just stop using drugs and they want to get on maintenance or i myself was on maintenance um so yeah i think back to the original question you know um just being talked to like a human made me able to get connected with other humans and feel human again yeah so it’s important in those interactions then that ah you don’t go out and be like here’s a couple need us needles call us when you’re ready for recovery like that’s not yeah we’re like hey how you doing you know they um the people in our communities that that are using um in and outside of homes because it’s not only by far not only the homeless community that’s using we’re like hey how’s your kids or like we give them a container because um their kids will get into it or you know house your dog you know anything um we talk to them about yeah you know you mentioned this this internet site backpage which is i guess where sex workers go to like advertise for their stuff and i think that is absolutely terrible and you should definitely tell us where it’s at so that i don’t go there they shut it down i’m just kidding no but going back to this idea of prostitution versus sex work that’s interesting because i really do try to focus on inclusive language and i imagine prostitute is much more of a a labeling judgmental type word at this point you know maybe that’s not where it started it was just a descriptive thing but i do think it has a negative uh you know feeling to it so maybe maybe we do want to avoid that maybe we should go with sex workers or yeah persons who also work in the sex trade for i don’t know something inclusive yeah something nice so no yeah that’s not to use prostitution um what could be more beneficial that we don’t have what do you see when you’re going out there that you’re like man if only we could do this thing maybe it’s illegal maybe it’s not acceptable whatever this would really just step it up a notch i don’t know what about free drugs i mean okay better and and if you really look at that statement as a harm reductionist um the free drugs if we had them we would know what’s in them yes um they don’t and their arms are just decaying and and those things i think um i was gonna say housing um however we do have that now um we have resources for that so the only thing is just helping people hope right well we have we have housing for people on their way into recovery right we don’t have housing for like people using do we no we don’t yeah yeah you know yeah and going back to the idea that billy was presenting you know harm reduction methods in other areas talking about alcohol you’re right no nobody says a designated driver is a terrible idea nobody says oh my god you’re such a [ _ ] for having a designated driver you should just suck it up and drive home like a man or something like that’s you know that’s a crazy idea but you know yes alcohol labels food labels we might not think of them this way but these are harm reduction methods absolutely if we didn’t have food labels you don’t know when that [ _ ] expired or if it was created in a lab that you know didn’t also chop up mice next to it or whatever like you know what i mean like there’s labels because it’s monitored it’s restricted it’s governed same with alcohol and i think you know david poses uh when he was on our show was talking about that idea like if you bought a bottle of wine and you couldn’t get it at that liquor store and you got it from you know timmy uh in the hood right and you pour a glass and you don’t know if it’s the same potency or the same alcohol content as it was last week or or is the same alcohol content that you got from billy you know last month you don’t know what the [ _ ] you’re drinking it could be grain alcohol and you’re drinking three glasses of it before you even know and and then you’re dead and yes why aren’t we having drugs with labels on them why don’t we you know modify this program so that people do know what’s in what they’re using it and maybe that’s why some people go with the the doctor prescribed pills because it’s like a somewhat harm reduction version they know where they were produced what’s in them how many milligrams or whatever until you have pressed pills i was just thinking about this yeah now it’s gotten even worse with these illegals they’re not illegal but these counterfeit pills that are you know coming out of different places laced with fentanyl yeah and we do have like um another harm reduction tip we have like um fentanyl test strips um it will only tell you if there’s fentanyl present it will not tell you if there’s other things but you know it changes so much every time we come out with something a tip something they can use to be safer it’s something completely different how much of your drugs do you have to quote unquote waste to get it tested none so it’s it’s really what the the residue is you could take one drop of water and put it on there you can take um residue we we do also um we send out so the wound care nurse um is able to send out um like samples not he gets empty bags and wipes this thing on them and uh sends them out and they’re we’re involved in our program and uh they test it and there and it comes back it doesn’t say percentages um but heroin has not been found in cecil county at all jesus yeah um it’s fentanyl and um xylazine which is what’s causing the wounds wow yeah so you know we’ve talked about this mostly from a humanitarian perspective uh and maybe earlier on before people got bored with that idea who aren’t into harm reduction we should talk about money like this saves everybody money right if you if you have a way to label drugs you prevent wounds right if you have clean needles you prevent wounds this prevents hospital trips and let me most people on you know substance abuse regimens don’t have insurance so that’s tax money that’s paying for unpaid medical bills unpaid ambulance trips overdoses because we don’t have a safe use site for people to be watched and saved and monitored like all these mounting expenses uh the the war on drugs the crime the keeping people in prison the judges the courts i feel like and this is where i come from with the free drugs if you just gave everybody the drugs they wanted to use all that other [ _ ] stops oh yeah and i mean that’s part of why they started to make things like moonshine illegal like that’s exactly the reasoning is because when you start making stuff in somebody’s backyard or you know manufacturing this stuff unregulated it becomes dangerous and it’s you know can become toxic and it’s the same with drugs and you know it’s like we keep looking the overdose death rates just keep going higher and higher every year i think last year was 90 something thousand pretty close to 100 000 probably this year will be a hundred thousand you know we’ve had six this month yes in a small community small rural community and it’s the you know obviously we’ve talked about this before but the war on drugs is a failure trying to tell people they need to stop and then it’s not safe and that stuff hasn’t worked you know we’ve talked about different reasons why people use drugs it’s trauma it’s social issues you know all those things but at some point you just have to well i don’t think you have to because we obviously in this county it was a fight to get harm reduction you know in place and at times it’s still a fight to keep it or try to up you know ramp it up because in most communities it can always be more more money more supplied more things you know can be useful but uh when do we look at the failure of the war on drugs and start saying people are going to use drugs and what things can we do to try to make our communities as a whole this i mean one it does help the addicts but it also helps the community as a whole when we implement these things and put them in place it gets people better access to treatment it hopefully cleans up communities you know it reduces transmission of diseases i mean it seems like a no-brainer but we get so stuck on these moral or ethical like what’s using and it’s bad and it’s wrong that we’re willing to like dismiss all the benefit yeah borrowing a little from uh gabor mate here there’s only two things that war always includes and that’s violence and collateral damage and that’s basically what we’ve created we’ve created a defenseless population and you know unfortunately and not i don’t think this is is by the people’s you know the members of the police force are not necessarily bad people and that’s not where they’re coming from but when this is when you keep interacting with a failed system over and over again there’s frustration that builds up and they have like carte blanche to do whatever the [ _ ] they want physically to people who are a defenseless population so you’ve created this really really unequal dynamic and then the collateral damage of everybody else around and you’re like ah [ _ ] it if all these husbands get gonorrhea we just don’t want to give out condoms or [ _ ] it if aid spreads in the community because people’s you know partners are out there using and they’re unaware of it that’s just oh well that’s part of the war and it’s crazy yeah and i mean even we saw with aids like that was a tragedy the way those things were handled in the 80s but if you look at you know the a lot of the stigma not all but a lot of the stigma around that’s been turned around we now have some treatment methods for it and it’s like it’s done almost a 180 to where you don’t have thousands of people dying of aids you know all the time it’s treatable and it’s because people change their minds and stop moralizing like this is a homosexual disease that affects homosexuals and drug addicts and it was treated like a general health problem and it was handled with you know health uh assessment you know risks and and figuring out how do we best treat it and it’s worked like it shows that those things work aids is all for the sinners who like that anal sex dirty people charlatans and i tend to think even with police and i know this is a little selective but in general if as a community we stopped having laws around using an active use you know possession things like that if those weren’t laws the police wouldn’t be enforcing them i mean they enforce the laws that are in effect so if you change the laws which is which the point of that is it’s not necessarily the police officer’s fault he’s got a job he gets a paycheck to go out and do a job and his job is if you got drugs you get arrested you know and so that’s what he’s going to do but if you get that off of the book says that’s not the law anymore as a community if we can change that way of thinking you know then we don’t have to worry about him harassing people that are using drugs you know i am still trying to figure out who is against free drugs and why i really am like i’m telling you you create a i say a warehouse but maybe it’s a community or a township with little you know cabins for people to stay in everybody that wants drugs goes there and you have to use them while you’re there right crime basically stops immediately because nobody has to do anything to get money for drugs anymore and everybody who’s like well that’s a terrible idea you’re giving out free drugs they’re the same people that really don’t want drug addicts or homeless people in their community well they all go the [ _ ] away when you create this place they’re all gone they don’t stay in your neighborhood anymore so they’re out of your sight i don’t know that feels like a whole nother debate but does it yeah well so first come from i’ll pinpoint and we’ll get away free drugs nothing’s ever free somebody’s paying for that [ _ ] whether it’s my tax dollars your tax dollars whatever somebody’s paying for those drugs secondly not all drug addicts are criminals you know what i mean when i was an active user i wasn’t robbing or stealing or any i mean i stole maybe from my family and things like that but i was not an a user that harmed the community in that sort of sense and vice versa i knew plenty of people that robbed and stole and [ _ ] just because they didn’t want to have [ _ ] jobs so crime will still happen it might be reduced but it’s still going to happen because people are going to take because they can and and then you know a lot of our homeless population also struggles with like mental health issues and things like that like the reason they’re homeless isn’t because they’re addicts there’s plenty of using addicts that can maintain a house and i was never a homeless person um i think the idea of homelessness comes more out of like mental health and an inability to manage this complex system that we have right now for paying rent and mortgage and bills and utilities and maintaining a job and all that [ _ ] so okay anyway no no no no just a little bit so okay yes who’s paying for it right i get that but with all the reduced money that doesn’t have to go into to prisons to policing to all the things that come out of what goes on with drugs now well then okay taxes get reduced because we save money we know harm reductions methods save money like that’s the goal and so this one saves money taxes come down so everybody’s happy about that like yeah less money out of my pocket that’s great i don’t know about these criminals that just rob and steal because they don’t want a job like maybe i’m not saying they don’t exist i just i feel like what ten percent of the crime is that maybe and and the same with the homeless population how many how many of the homeless population aren’t using something i don’t know money yeah and correct me if i’m wrong but i think the the using goes along with the mental illness like that’s a lot of people that are struggling with mental illness that’s their way of trying to regulate their mental health issues you know it’s not necessarily they’re in chaotic use out of some sort of choice it’s like they feel like that’s a way to regulate their mental health i would argue but it’s a bad way it does not work if you have mental health issues trying to you know use straight drugs is not but for them it is because it solves some you know alleviates angst and anxiety and the voices in your head [ _ ] but it’s not a good way to manage it no it’s it’s not but i i would argue that that’s everybody that’s ever used drugs we’re all trying to self-medicate to something and it’s some kind of mental health mental unease mental not going yeah but someone handing me free drugs was not the solution that i needed in my case you know what i mean i don’t think that would have made me better if someone just gave me free drugs no well this is that’s why this is harm reduction it’s not necessarily going to make you better it’s going to reduce the harms involved with you going that route until you’re done would reduce harms i mean i guess as a whatever free market guy i’m more like oh well just make it like alcohol and people can buy it and [ _ ] and make it reasonably priced and regulate it we still need to but then we can take all the money from the courts and all that stuff and focus them on treatment job training social programs fixing up poor communities like that money could be spent way better fixing up you know some of our impoverished communities go into these communities and put in community centers family outreach programs social workers you know like we could really do a lot for the community as a whole versus just helping the addict themselves well yeah but if we regulate and charge you don’t completely reduce the crime the way i hope to by making it free because people still need to find some kind of money for it just like you have to find money for cigarettes or money for alcohol or whatever you’ve got to do something to get that and some of that might be illegal and then two you keep it in the general population which gives access to people buying it for minors and it gets distributing in high schools like we eliminate that if it’s you can only use it at this location oh you gotta use it there yeah as much as you can we’re getting into logistics of this situation as much as you want unlimited supply limited to your hard skin tone where explodes but definitely those ideas are fun to talk about but it’s definitely those are moves i think in the right direction you know what i mean the idea of decriminalization first of all it seems like a no-brainer you know what i mean that seems and then you know regulation distribution i mean if you go back way before the war on drugs people used to be able to go get uh wasn’t heroin what the hell’s the name can’t think of the name of that drug but you used to be able to just go to your doctor and they would just prescribe it to you as a medication morphine yeah you used to be able to just go get morphine you could go buy it at the pharmacy over the counter you know and they didn’t moralize people like they do now and so if you were and you would go get your morphine and you would take it and you would go to work or go live your life and you know they didn’t seem to have all these terrible things that were happening with people when morphine was just easily and readily available well and say it’s legal say it’s legal it’s somewhere you can go get it there’s no lifestyle portion of it because i feel like that’s part of what people talk about when they get in recovery i hear that a lot like i i don’t miss the drugs as much as i miss the lifestyle right the ripping and the running and the cop in and and like all the rituals around it if if we eliminate all that that’s one less barrier to recovery like you don’t have to miss any of that because that didn’t exist you just kind of sat in your bed and got high every day because they gave you the drugs and there wasn’t all that copping and scoring and getting in touch with the right dealer that was actually five minutes away not you know three hours even though they text you five minutes and all that [ _ ] i don’t know yeah [ _ ] it that’s where i’m going if you’re trying to get someone out of chaotic use and into a managed use that’s definitely a step in the right direction yeah well and when you talk about the pushback right it’s we’re no longer saying what you’re doing is bad so they don’t have to go to the far end of the spectrum we’re just giving it well well now i have the time and the openness i don’t have to spend 22 hours of my day trying to find ways and means to get more i have time to sit here and be like damn what the [ _ ] am i doing with my life right all right yeah i got all the drugs i want i got that now and that didn’t solve it so now what it’s almost like you give people what they think is the solution so that they have the time to realize it’s not and then evaluate well what the [ _ ] could be if this isn’t like i thought this was the answer and now they [ _ ] gave it to me and now it’s not now i gotta go back to the drawing board right i feel like we don’t have that option right now because we’re so busy spending time getting the next one well and again i know this we’ll talk more about this later but it doesn’t i guess that’s sort of the idea behind medicaid assisted treatment is that you’re getting people into a managed use setting and i don’t know all about i’ve never been involved in a medicaid assisted treatment program myself so i don’t know much about i know what i know when i was using which was i had some friends that went and did it you had to report to a place at a time and [ _ ] do drug tests and i wasn’t about any of that i was like [ __ ] that i’m just going to keep using what i want so where do we go from here i mean we give out needles cottons waters cookers cookers clean wipes you guys giving out crack pipes yet no why not there there has been a recent uptick in crack use so if we find a need we will fill it so we had talked about this jason and i just a little bit before what is the need for like crack pipe exchange i don’t know what you would call it like what’s the danger of i don’t know what the danger is and crack pipes that people would need like is there a danger sharing them or yeah they’re sharing them or i mean they break they break you put the lighter on them too long and they break um you can get burns from them um and yeah i’m sure you know you can get spread tb that way you can um cover it i’m sure yeah oh yeah crack pipes yeah that’s the reason i found that funny i was just like oh i mean i know i’ve smoked crack i didn’t know the danger of crack pipes yeah that should have been their slogan when they came out with the free crack pipe program it should have been like drop the mess pick up the crack pipes the clean crack perps of course that’d been great i feel like we all would have been happier during copen we’re stuck at home but we got crack pipes uh so is that and that’s what’s in the bag all those things i’m like so it uh gives you opportunity to use new everything that’s in that process of injection use um we also have some systolic i can’t say the word acid stuff that we can get sometimes uh meth is huge here so um that’ll help break that down whatever there’s a need for but yeah our basic bag has 10 cottons 10 cookers 10 syringes we give you a box a sharps container that holds 20 syringes so yeah and that’s one of the benefits i would think of the community outreach is that you get to see what’s actually going on in the community sort of in real time um i know recently there’s been different uh whatever things they cut the drugs with that have caused all sorts of different health infections and skin problems and and all sorts of issues that you know just someone coming in and exchanging some needles you might not know about but when you’re doing outreach and talking to people and they’re bringing up some of their health issues you can see in real time what’s actually in the community what is the acid for why does it what does it break down the meth for it’ll break it down i don’t know i’m like oh just makeup juice we use lemon juice back in the day to like so it becomes injectable oh yeah yeah sometimes it doesn’t um liquefy well enough or fast enough for my liking so i got that on and it’s really helps to break down for an injection yeah gotcha i remember the old trick with the crack you used to put like vinegar on lemon juice vinegar apple cider vinegar yeah had a nice little aftertaste
all right so i i mean is there any final thoughts what would you say to the people who just cannot right now get on board with harm reduction like how would you put it in a way that maybe they would feel a little different about it or have something to think about i don’t know i want to say things like they’re in denial and your and your basic things um everyone is affected i don’t know anybody that’s not affected by this in one form or another you don’t have to be a drug addict to have sex with a random person you don’t you know it’s just um if you listen to the reasons why where you’re in the community um we’re in the community and this community has a need for harm reduction right yeah right and i mean for me i guess the society can only be as you know good as its weakest members kind of thing and if we help to build up our communities in the bottom it sures up you know the rest of the community i mean again if like you would talk about if we can start reducing crime and reducing stigma and treating reducing community spread diseases like that benefits everybody not just the people in the active use community but our health care system the cost on the health care system like there’s so many practical uh reasons why it’s a good idea yeah i’m uh listening to the book in the realm of hungry ghosts right now and you know gabor mate frames the idea that we don’t want to see people as human because to acknowledge that acknowledges the pieces of us and the ways we escape in our daily life are reflected in that you know dark mirror of addiction and uh it’s an interesting concept i i’m sure not everybody’s gonna buy in just by me saying that but i think that’s an excellent book to read up on to humanitize people who are struggling with the use of substances so check that out jarrah thank you so much for coming i didn’t want to make one other minor comment in closing because this is one of those things you hear a lot and we forgot to bring it up so handing out free needles has never uh encouraged anyone to shoot heroin like no one ever went out and go hey i found this needle i think i’m gonna go shoot some coke or shoot some heroin like giving out free supplies is really not gonna cause people to use drugs i don’t know i was just telling my 70 year old mom about that she could get free needles up here and she said she was gonna move up here and start using heroin there out of nowhere it’s crazy good luck finding it yeah yeah that would that would never happen yeah nobody’s nobody’s gonna pick up because of harm reduction methods that’s not really a thing you don’t know anybody ask yourself you really don’t know anybody of your community your friends your family that is going to all the sudden decide they want to be a meth user right because if someone handed you one of these bags of you know free stuff would you then all be like yes i’m going to go shoot heroin and be a sex worker i mean i would just i would cancel all my therapy appointments as soon as they handed me that bag and just be like oh my god who am i [ __ ] getting high with like that’s that’s what’s up all right anyway go out there support harm reduction hopefully uh if you hate harm reduction reach out to us tell us why we’d love to talk about that more and you know hear your reasons why and we’ll see you next week did you like this episode share it with people you think might get something out of it check out the rest of our episodes at recoveryswordup.com also while you’re there you can find ways to link up with us on facebook twitter instagram reddit youtube anything we’re always looking for new ideas got an idea you want us to look into reach out to us
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