As Canada Legalizes Heroine Sales, What Is “Harm Reduction” and Why Are More Countries Around The World Implementing This Strategy To Combat Drug Abuse?

After the success of countries like Portugal and Switzerland, more and more countries around the world are implementing the strategy of “Harm Reduction” in response to drug abuse. Canada made international headlines last week when it announced it was going to legalize heroine sales nationwide, becoming the latest country to implement Harm Reduction techniques in response to a heroine crisis. Canada has also announced plans to fully legalize marijuana in 2017.

In an official statement, Health Canada announced “Canada is currently facing an opioid overdose crisis, and we need to assist our healthcare providers in treating their patients, including those who are suffering from chronic relapsing opioid dependency.

Scientific evidence supports the medical use of diacetylmorphine for the treatment of chronic relapsing opioid dependence in certain individual cases. Health Canada recognizes the importance of providing physicians with the power to make evidence-based treatment proposals in these exceptional cases.

According to Daniel Raymond, the policy director for Harm Reduction New York, the approach to legalizing heroine should be seen as a professional “extension of medicine-based rehab programs.

Despite the limited access to the drugs as mandated by the new policy, Raymond contends Canada’s decision to embrace “harm reduction” policies shows people are finally learning that “asking drug users to quit drugs isn’t always a feasible goal,” nor does throwing drug abusers in jail improve their quality of life.

The strategy of Harm Reduction has already been successfully implemented throughout Europe and Vancouver and much like what happened in Switzerland, Canada hopes to significantly reduce heroine abuse.

What is harm reduction and how does it curb drug abuse?

Harm reduction is an alternative ,sociological based, approach towards reducing drug addiction and the number of individuals in society who regularly abuse drugs. It is believed by many people/countries throughout the world that the “drug epidemic” has only been made worse by the War on Drugs, not better, and it is time to seriously begin looking a new direction.

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Rather than take a militaristic approach and mass incarcerate citizens as the current War on Drugs mandates, Harm Reduction focuses on caregiving and rehabilitation. Harm reductions takes the same state funding we pump into our prison systems and diverts it into hospitals, it replaces prison guards with medical assistants and replaces parole boards with job and life coaches.

The underlying premise to Harm Reduction philosophy is that when you treat someone with dignity, invest the time/money/effort into improving their lives – rather then condemn them and throw them in a cage – not only is the individual in question better off, but we as a society will be much better off in the long run as well.

Before we move forward you should understand why the global War on Drugs has become such a great failure and learn a little more about how Harm Reduction actually works. Please watch the following educational video from: Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

Typically when someone explains harm reduction they are always met with the same statement/question: “It sure sounds nice, but how do you expect to pay for all of that?”

People seem to think it sounds like a good idea in principle, on paper, but it is a common misconception that harm reduction will actually cost tax payers more money than our current model. This is a fallacy, allow me to explain why.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, it costs US taxpayers $31,286 to keep one prison in jail for a years time. Keep in mind that there are over 2 million people in prison in the US and according to drugpolicy.org, 70% of these prisoners are in jail for drug related offenses alone.

What is the cost of this hard-line approach to drug abuse on society?

According to justice.gov, it costs $27.8 billions dollars to maintain our justice system as it currently exists in 2015. All of this is paid for by the taxpayers.

When a country legalizes drugs they turn crippling expenditure into savings and revenue – literally overnight. Not only does each state save all the money they previously spent hunting down and prosecuting drug users, holding people in jail, but they actually generate income through the taxation of future drug sales.

Colorado became the first state in history to generate more revenue from marijuana taxation than alcohol taxation – this amount was greater than $70 million in 2015 alone. This is not to mention the tens of millions of dollars the state saved in police/prison/legal expenses it used to spend persecuting the same drug/drug abusers. Did I also mention crime rates dropped?

Colorado is one example how legalizing something as small as a plant and reducing overall drug prosecutions can lead to a safer society while adding hundreds of millions of dollars to individual states budgets each year.

So, as other countries are showing the United States, more austerity in our approach to law enforcement and social issues is not always the answer – War of any kind is inherently negative.

As someone who lives in one of the norther most states in the United States, sharing a border with Canada, I will be watching this situation closely. On one side of the border we will see Harm Reduction and on the other we will see a War on the same drugs. It will be curious to see which country’s strategy turns out most effective for their people in the long run.


This article (As Canada Legalizes Heroine Sales, What Is “Harm Reduction” and Why Are More Countries Around The World Implementing This Strategy To Combat Drug Abuse?) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article using a creative commons license with attribution to Brian Dunn and Alternative Medi4