Stop attacks on harm reduction in Idaho!

Harm reduction is exactly that: a reduction of the harm that can potentially be caused by drug use. For some, harm reduction includes trip sitting — having a sober friend watch over them, either in person or through emergency hotlines such as Never Use Alone, while they use drugs. For others, it can include distribution of information on how to identify fentanyl and xylazine with test strips. Providing clean and safe works — called “drug paraphernalia” by the government — is another key piece of the harm reduction puzzle.

Using damaged or already-used works can cause a variety of health problems. Dirty needles can spread hepatitis C virus (HCV) and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Sharing used crystal methamphetamine and crack cocaine pipes can also spread HCV. Additionally, without access to clean and undamaged pipes, the risk of HIV increases because of riskier use of needles for methamphetamines (meth).

The need for a holistic approach to harm reduction that allows for the safer use of drugs is readily apparent. People are putting themselves in harm’s way when using heroin, fentanyl, the nitazene family of drugs (such as isotonitazene), crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamines, and it benefits nobody — neither the public nor the users themselves — to pretend that it happens in a vacuum or to pretend that those decisions are theirs alone to make.

There is growing awareness that the use of drugs impacts everyone: users, ex-users, families and friends of users and the general public. So what are harm reduction providers currently doing? They are expanding the very meaning of harm reduction, and this is to everyone’s benefit.

Idaho: state repression of harm reduction 

What happens when the bourgeois state isn’t just ignoring harm reduction but actively going out of its way to crush it? The answer can be seen in Idaho.

In Idaho, the Idaho Harm Reduction Project gave out specialized information on how to safely use drugs, along with the tools to use drugs safely. They handed out clean needles and clean pipes. The police raided its facilities in Boise and Caldwell in February, because they had “drug paraphernalia” on site, and because they openly discussed distributing this “paraphernalia.”

The next move by the anti-drug user reactionaries was an effort to repeal the syringe service program approval process, impacting all services that might exist in Idaho. State Rep. John Vander Woude introduced a bill that would delegalize the syringe service programs, which would invariably cause increases in overdoses and result in HIV, HBV (hepatitis B virus), and HCV transmission. Vander Woude — who is not an expert on drug use, addiction and recovery — wants a “better” system that would not include syringe exchange or harm reduction help.

Nothing coming from the likes of Vander Woude would be an improvement. Politicians like him, who do not care about drug users, want to crush every effort to aid them. Revolutionaries, activists and users (in recovery or not) need to remind these reactionaries that drug users are human beings who need help, not chastising, and that providing safe works and information saves lives. Idahoans are dying at a higher rate than ever, and they need the programs that provide the help their particular situations demand.

The attack on syringe service and harm reduction programs will only spread if the movement doesn’t act against it. For the sake of the living and to prevent unnecessary deaths, we need to fight back.

While socialism could and would provide a better system to help drug users recover, under capitalism whatever programs exist need to be defended.

Stop the repression of the Idaho Harm Reduction Program!


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