Drink and Drugs News DDN September 2019 | Page 7

chAnge ‘We have been effective at reducing the risks associated with injecting drug use and developing interventions which deliver some of the most cost-effective health interventions of any kind.‘ does happen and it absolutely should not. So many drug services now have staff covering the needle and syringe programme who do not have the required knowledge, skills or even, in some cases, the appropriate attitudes to engage with some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in our society. In this environment, good quality harm reduction cannot happen and we have little hope of reducing or ending the harms and social isolation of drug users until there is enough political will to develop a drug policy which truly reflects the value of human life. Naloxone is not the answer to saving the lives of people who use drugs. Harm reduction is, of which naloxone is one important component. THE PROPER SUPPORT A NEED FOR VISION Developing Health & Independence (DHI), a West of England based social exclusion charity are marking their 20th anniversary this year with The Vision Project. This series of articles, podcasts and events is exploring the question of how they can achieve their vision to ‘end social exclusion by ensuring that everyone has their basic needs met and is able to thrive by contributing to the richness and wellbeing of their community’. All articles and podcasts can be found at www.dhi-online.org.uk/vision-project and you can sign up to get latest updates on the project at www.dhi-online.org.uk/newsletter. www.drinkanddrugsnews.com We must celebrate the commitment and compassion of those who work in our field and properly educate, train, mentor and support them. This doesn’t have to cost the earth – it’s not a financial issue, it’s a cultural one. In a world increasingly dominated by pharmacy provision of syringes, we appear to have forgotten how to like and respect people who use drugs. If we lack positive enthusiasm and optimism, what right do we have to expect this in others? Services must properly support our amazing colleagues to once again create the culture of acceptance and engagement, save more lives and improve the health of people who inject drugs. We need to reimagine how harm reduction can work in this austere climate and, yes, maybe this also means we need to rediscover a new style of activism to once again make a difference by keeping people who inject drugs alive and well. We must also engage with our communities in a way that encourages them to reframe their understanding of drugs and the people who use them. We have to challenge attitudes and break down the barriers that prevent society from feeling compassion, understanding and acceptance for people who make life choices that can carry risk. We accept people who make life choices that lead to heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease and cancer, yet condemn people who inject drugs for ‘wasting precious health resources’ . This health inequality is perverse and is perpetuated by a political policy which continues to classify people who inject drugs as criminals, fails to support harm reduction and does nothing to challenge society’s perpetual exclusion of people with genuine health needs. In the absence of any political will to address this, our only hope is that the field can become activists once more and bring about the change we need. We did it before; we can do it again. Nick Wilson is from Exchange Supplies, a social enterprise specialising in harm reduction equipment. The Vision Project published this piece on 28 July to coincide with World Hepatitis Day. September 2019 | drinkanddrugsnews | 7