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Critical studies of harm reduction: Overdose response in uncertain political times.

Authors
  • Watson, Tara Marie1
  • Kolla, Gillian2
  • van der Meulen, Emily3
  • Dodd, Zoë4
  • 1 Institute for Mental Health Policy Research, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 33 Russell Street, 3rd floor Tower, Toronto, Ontario M5S 2S1, Canada. Electronic address: [email protected] , (Canada)
  • 2 Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, 155 College Street, Toronto, Ontario M5T 3M7, Canada; Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 3 South Riverdale Community Health Centre, 955 Queen Street East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
  • 4 Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. , (Canada)
Type
Published Article
Journal
The International journal on drug policy
Publication Date
Dec 11, 2019
Volume
76
Pages
102615–102615
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2019.102615
PMID: 31837567
Source
Medline
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown

Abstract

North America continues to witness escalating rates of opioid overdose deaths. Scale-up of existing and innovative life-saving services - such as overdose prevention sites (OPS) as well as sanctioned and unsanctioned supervised consumption sites - is urgently needed. Is there a place for critical theory-informed studies of harm reduction during times of drug policy failures and overdose crisis? There are different approaches to consider from the critical literature, such as those that, for example, interrogate the basic principles of harm reduction or those that critique the lack of pleasure in the discourses surrounding drug use. Influenced by such work, we examine the development of OPS in Canada, with a focus on recent experiences from the province of Ontario, as an important example of the impacts associated with moving from grassroots harm reduction to institutionalised policy and practice. Services appear to be most innovative, dynamic, and inclusive when people with lived experience, allies, and service providers are directly responding to fast-changing drug use patterns and crises on the ground, before services become formally bureaucratised. We suggest a continuing need to both critically theorise harm reduction and to build strong community relationships in harm reduction work, in efforts to overcome political moves that impede collaboration with and inclusiveness of people who use drugs. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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