US pivots to ‘harm reduction’ after 107,000 overdose deaths final yr


The Biden administration will prioritise “harm reduction” to handle drug abuse whereas reviewing information to evaluate marijuana legalisation and protected injection websites, in a break from the longstanding US coverage, the White House drug tsar has mentioned.

Dr Rahul Gupta, the primary medical physician to carry the put up of director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, mentioned in an interview that federal coverage is shifting to handle the US overdose disaster as a public well being emergency somewhat than primarily a felony justice drawback.

More than 107,000 Americans died of drug overdoses final yr, an increase of just about 50 per cent in two years, in keeping with provisional information revealed final month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gupta mentioned it was clear that a long time of anti-drug campaigns had not labored.

“For the first time in history, the federal government is embracing the specific policies of harm reduction,” Gupta informed the Financial Times.

Harm discount insurance policies settle for that unlawful drug use takes place and goal to minimise its results to avoid wasting lives. It has been adopted in some European nations and Australia, however is opposed by some conservative lawmakers within the US, who argue it could encourage drug abuse.

Fentanyl, a robust painkiller utilized in hospitals however now a standard road drug, accounted for about two-thirds of US overdose deaths.

The Biden administration is funding nationwide distribution of the overdose prevention remedy naloxone, fentanyl drug testing strips and sterilised syringes to addicts. But it has not but lifted a ban on supervised injection websites, that are places the place drug customers can self-administer medicine and obtain emergency assist in the event that they overdose.

Two such websites not too long ago opened in New York, prompting calls from Republican lawmakers for president Joe Biden to direct the Department of Justice to shut down the “illegal” services. So far federal authorities have taken no motion.

Gupta mentioned the administration wanted to grasp the scientific effectiveness of protected injection websites earlier than deciding whether or not to advocate lifting the prevailing federal ban. Policy could be guided by science, information and the overriding want to avoid wasting lives, he added.

Biden mentioned he supported decriminalisation of marijuana throughout his 2020 election marketing campaign, which eliminates penalties for possessing the drug. But he has not indicated if he helps legalising hashish on the federal stage.

The president faces mounting strain to handle the problem given the variety of US states pushing forward with legalisation and a vote by the House of Representatives on April 1 to approve a reform invoice that might take away marijuana from the federal listing of banned substances.

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Gupta mentioned the White House place on marijuana legalisation would additionally observe science by evaluating the experiences of the 19 US states which have already authorised leisure marijuana use.

“We’re learning from those states. We’re monitoring the data and trying to see where things go. But one thing is very clear, and the president has been clear about that. The policies that we’ve had around marijuana have not been working,” Gupta mentioned.

David Herzberg, a historian on the University of Buffalo who specialises in US drug coverage, mentioned legalising protected injection websites and marijuana would characterize a dramatic change in US coverage. He mentioned it was unclear if such insurance policies would win help inside the Biden administration.

“You could end up with a kind of turf war . . . there is going to be a lot of money for drug policy and the question will be who is going to get it? Cops or docs,” Herzberg mentioned.

Gupta mentioned there’s a clear must rethink the felony justice-led strategy of the previous. “People should not be incarcerated, arrested, for just their drug use,” he mentioned.