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Moving Beyond Opioids: 5 Lessons for the Next Drug Crisis

Published date : October 21, 2018

Once certain groups are tagged as criminal or undeserving, or"not like us," it is simple to enforce supposedly reasonable and colorblind legislation in a discriminatory fashion, whether intentionally or unconsciously. It's a fascinating time to be an advocate for drug policy reform and damage reduction. For the very first time in year-

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, individuals trumpeting the failures of the War on drugs have been heard, while victories on overdose prevention, syringe market, medication assisted therapy, and much more are passing in state after state. The main reason behind injury reduction's abrupt change in status from outcast to mainstream general health ally can be summed up in 1 sentence: opioids. More to the point, the problem has the white, wealthy class responsible for decision-making and policy, leading to compassionate attempts at reform that were scorned as"soft on crime" during previous medication disasters, once the user population was perceived as mostly weak or brown. While the momentum to address the opioid catastrophe is reassuring, a significant concern still lingers: What will happen to all these reforms once opioid dependence decreases? Will present heights of sympathy still hold whether the vast majority of drug users are once again perceived as poor and brown? To answer this question, I recently caught up with a few national injury reductionists and drug coverage advocates for advice on how best to take the present downturn on drug policy reform past opioids. Listed below are the top five ways people could make reforms permanent and more honest towards all people regardless of race or course: Make the Minority Interest the Majority Interest The age-old challenge for anybody who has ever had to fundraiser or encourage an effect is this: how do we convince a critical mass of individuals to care about a problem that doesn't directly impact them? Most people in the United States are not addicted to drugs, so whether our nation's drug policies are excessively punitive, ineffective or racially biased is just not an issue for Typical Joe. 1 way to change this is to link drug policy concerns to a larger problem that does affect a significant mass of Americans. There are lots of problems that may serve this objective. One of them is health care. "We need to continue to talk about the linkages between healthcare and substance use," states Grant Smith, Acting Director of the National Affairs Office for the Drug Policy Alliance. "This linkage reinforces the understanding that chemical use is first and foremost a health issue, regardless of the medication used. Improved health care access and coverage is essential to enhancing the odds that someone will have the ability to look for substance use treatment if they need it. Framing substance use as a health problem also challenges our existing plan of treating drug use as completely a criminal justice issue." Together with all the doubt and concern over the future of the health insurance program, the timing is ripe for action on health care accessibility, which will lead to better and more permanent outcomes for those who have substance use issues too. Produce Powerful Collaborative Partnerships with New Stakeholders The opioid crisis has accomplished that on a scale not seen before. New collaborative partnerships can also be a part of constructing a critical mass of supporters. Jeremy Saunders, Co-Director of VOCAL New York, a harm reduction company, says he has never seen numerous social justice organizations considering drug policy before the outbreak. "To recruit more people to this work, we will need to match them where they're at, which may signify discussing opioids initially. But finally we need to extend the conversation to include issues with drug coverage as a whole, as well as larger issues like health care and affordable housing," he states. After trust and rapport is created, that common ground will begin to expand into other difficulties. New partnerships forged between damage reductionists and non-traditional allies won't disappear overnight when the Kurdish catastrophe declines, even although they may weaken. By actively keeping these partnerships alive and seeking new ones, advocates will continue the work motivated by common curiosity about opioids even after the medication of choice changes. Along with establishing relationships with new collaborative partners, advocates need to ensure they don't also shed critical mass by permitting themselves to become broken and pitted against one another. By way of instance, this division is currently happening in conversations about individuals using drugs versus individuals who market them. Public opinion is turning a compassionate eye towards individuals who struggle with drug dependence, while at the exact same time many policymakers are searching for harsher penalties for those who sell drugs -- in some cases even charging them with murder when someone overdoses in their own product. Kingpins and cartels aside, the idea that there's always a clear, consistent gap between sellers and users is nonsense. Many users sell drugs to support their habit. However, by asserting there is a huge difference, proponents of a criminal justice approach to chemical use can continue the ineffective policies of this current War on Drugs with only a small narrowing of the target population. ''' This human tendency to judge others while forgiving our own mistakes is at the heart of the democratic and class bias within present drug coverage. Once particular classes are labeled as criminal, undeserving, or"not like those " it is so easy to lose them and also to enforce supposedly reasonable and colorblind legislation in a discriminatory manner, whether deliberately or unconsciously. We will need to combat this trend if we could ever hope for equitable medication coverage. Earning the minority interest the majority interest, making collaborative ventures and battling attempts at branch are all good and well, but those reforms could change swiftly if public sentiment towards drug users changes. The best approach to ensure that positive drug coverage reforms stick around for great is to get it done by giving people things they won't want taken away. For instance, for most of the criticism and bitterness towards the Affordable Care Act, current political drama has revealed us that after millions of individuals have access to healthcare for the very first time, it is really hard to take it away. If we invest in accessibility to medical care, behavioral health services, mental health care services, drug use treatment, etc., even individuals who don't give a hoot about medication users won't wish to lose services they are accustomed to receiving. The same folks will be a potent force to hold politicians accountable if they try to take away these essential benefits. "The opioid epidemic has established a cultural change towards seeing drug use as a behavioral health issue," says Daryl Atkinson, Co-Director of Forward Justice, a social justice nonprofit in Durham, North Carolina. "If we construct neighborhood ability to advocate for keeping those changes and hold politicians accountable, the policies will become more durable." Make sure that Directly Impacted People Lead the Movement Last but maybe most important is any lasting drug policy reform has to be led by people directly affected by drugs and drug policy. Directly affected individuals bring experience and passion to the cause that could effect lasting change. Among the biggest problems with current solutions to the opioid emergency is that many of the movers and shakers behind attempts to boost access to drug assisted therapy, modify prescribing habits, train first responders on overdose response, etc., are upper or middle class white individuals in positions of power in government and on nonprofit boards. These leaders may be impacted by the present opioid epidemic, however if they're not impacted by potential drug crises, the reforms of now might be only temporary. It is critical that non-opioid users, people in low income communities and individuals of colour hold leadership positions in order that reforms represent their community interests as well. Terri Hurst, Policy Coordinator for the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition, explains,"Drug policy reform has to be created from communities of colour and individuals directly impacted by existing policies. In addition, we must make feedback loops along with ways to assess whether coverage is working the way it needs to, so it could be monitored and altered if it is not using a positive impact on the communities it is supposed to help." It will take concerted effort to maintain path towards Favorable, evidence-based drug policy reform after the opioid emergency lessons and the user demographic adjustments, but there's proof that may occur. As Robert Suares, Organizational Leader of VOCAL New York, pointed out,"Lots of our lighter skinned brothers and sisters impacted by opioids are starting to understand what people of colour have understood for a long time. We are creating a movement" With directly affected individuals directing drug policy reform as specialists and leaders, engaging new collaborators, combating against divisive rhetoric, and framing the message so that a critical mass of the general public is spent in permanent reform, so we may nevertheless build a movement that's here to remain.