Dr. Andrew Herring, Co-Director of CA Bridge, urges all providers to implement medication for addiction treatment and harm reduction practices.

The New York Times article, Helping Drug Users Survive, Not Abstain: ‘Harm Reduction’ Gains Federal Support, makes a case for distributing clean syringes and other supplies to protect drug users. Reflecting on his own initial apprehension concerning patient-directed harm reduction practices, Dr. Herring makes a case for transforming how the medical community approaches people with substance use disorders – to lead with life-saving measures rather than ingrained stigma.

“As a physician, the first time I handed one of my emergency room patients using injection drugs a kit with sterile needles and a sharps container, it felt like I was violating a sacred taboo. I looked over my shoulder, fearing some unseen authority would judge me for condoning drug use.

The current overdose crisis demands that doctors shed this type of apprehension. Harm reduction staff and volunteers working outside the traditional medical system provide pragmatic and compassionate assistance that saves lives. They should not be working alone. Providing sterile equipment, naloxone, and education on using drugs safely should be the expected practice in every general medical clinic, every emergency department, and every hospital in America.

To make this happen, we need medical schools, residency training programs, and medical professional societies to invite the harm reduction community into a sustained and authentic partnership and bring medical treatment and harm reduction together as a unified approach.”

Join Dr. Herring in making medication for addiction treatment and harm reduction practices the standard of care in all hospitals. You can save more lives by signing up for the latest training and resources or reaching out for individualized technical assistance to treat substance use disorders at your hospital.