Harm reduction is a set of strategies aimed at reducing the negative effects of drug use. It considers the individuals living with Substance Use Disorder (SUD) as well as the communities in which they live. There are several parts to reducing risk: ensuring that those with an active SUD take ownership for reducing risk; identifying that the quality of life –both for the individual and the community- does not necessarily count on completely stopping the use of substances; and that the very real danger of substance misuse is acknowledged.
Reducing risk is not always easy and the methods and reasons for it are often misunderstood. Click on the links below to find out more and to learn about different ways that you can reduce harm. In the video below, Ryan Harm Reduction Coordinator, Ryan Fowler explains harm reduction and gives a training on Naloxone administration.
What is Narcan?
Narcan, also known as Naloxone, comes in both a nasal spray and injectable form. Narcan is most widely used in the nasal spray form and is used to counteract an opioid overdose to save lives.
Where can I get Naloxone/Narcan?
In Northern NH, Naloxone/Narcan is available for free by calling 211 or at your local Doorway:
- The Doorway at Androscoggin Valley Hospital: 603-342-5000
- The Doorway at Little Regional Healthcare: 603-259-1659
You can also get it without a prescription at your local pharmacy, but there may be a cost if you do not have health insurance.
What is Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)?
Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) is the practice of using FDA approved medication combined with counseling and behavioral therapies to treat Substance Use Disorders. This type of treatment can be used for several different substances, including nicotine, alcohol, and opioids. Opioids are a class of drug that include prescription pain relievers such as Oxycodone, heroin and fentanyl (a synthetic opioid).
Three prescription medications have been approved by the FDA specifically for the treatment of Opioid Use Disorder (OUD), including:
- Methadone– a clinic-based, opioid agonist that combines with certain receptors in the brain to reduce opioid cravings and withdrawal symptoms as well as block the effect of opioids. It is dispensed daily in liquid form and only in specialty regulated clinics
- Naltrexone– an office-based, non-addictive opioid antagonist which means that it blocks the effects of opioids such as prescription opioids and heroin and is taken as a daily pill or monthly injection
- Buprenorphine – office-based opioid agonist/antagonist that reduces the effects of physical dependency to opioids, such as withdrawal symptoms and craving. The medication can be in the form of a daily dissolving tablet, cheek film, or 6-month implant under the skin
When used in combination with counseling, all three of these treatments have been proven to be safe and effective. As with any chronic disease, the paths of treatment and recovery are unique to everyone. Because of this, some individuals may use MAT temporarily, and some may continue indefinitely.
Click here for more information on Medication Assisted Treatment.
What is a Syringe Services Program (SSP)?
A Syringe Services Program (SSP) is a program that provides an array of services to people who inject drugs (PWID). Syringe services can include safe disposal containers for needles and syringes; an exchange program for needles, syringes and other injection equipment; HIV and hepatitis testing and education; wound education; referrals to substance use disorder and mental health treatment; and more.
While there can be a stigma attached to SSPs, the truth is that individuals who use IV drugs are five times more likely to enter treatment and more likely to reduce or stop injecting when they have access to an SSP (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). In addition, by providing a safe place to get rid of used needles, SSPs significantly reduce the risk of accidental needlestick injuries to first responders and members of the community. Click here for more information on the benefits of SSPs in your community.
Wounds and infections are common among people who inject drugs (PWID). Unfortunately, homelessness, limited access to sterile supplies, stigma, and little to no access to basic hygiene needs are all barriers to wound care and getting treatment. Common wounds and infections can include abscesses, blood poisoning, infection of the heart lining, tetanus, collapsed veins, and hepatitis. While most PWID are offered additional medical and mental health treatment when they seek treatment for their wounds, many do not seek it out due to fear and stigma.
Click here for more information on ways to prevent wounds and infections, and the proper treatment if necessary.
Screening and Testing for HIV/ Hepatitis C
Early diagnosis of HIV and Hepatitis C is important because it provides access to treatment, education and other resources which benefits the health of the individual and helps prevent the spread of the viruses. Often if someone is at risk for one infection, they are also at risk for the other. Effective treatment can eliminate or significantly contain the viruses, making early, accessible testing even more critical for the health of the individual and the community