This debate has been raging for some time. I continue to have no doubt that those on both sides care for our communities despite having quite different views about this topic. However, criticisms I have heard tend to be more directed at those who are pro harm minimisation. I have heard them described as ‘people who hate children.’ Or they are accused of simply wanting to support their own drug use. I have never found this to be true. These are simply people who are trying to find a way ahead through what has become a serious problem; the extraordinary human and financial cost of the way, world wide (though not indeed everywhere) illicit drug use is approached.
Here are two things. Firstly, as someone who works with young people, I find the topic of drug use just goes with the territory. Not all young people are using, but it is going to be almost impossible for them to avoid contact with drugs at some point as they grow up. Secondly, my starting point in my work is always the welfare of the young person…and those around them. I do not start from a position of knowing how they should behave nor what will be useful to them. What does always concern me though, is how they can best look after themselves and others. And I do try to find out what might work for this person; and then we work out approaches/strategies…long term and short term…that might help them. The long term stuff is to do with belonging and fitting somewhere, being connected to others, doing something worthwhile, something meaningful…all the stuff we know about wellbeing and resilience; which may not reduce use, but may effect how a person uses, and may reduce the amount of damage that could otherwise occur. The short term stuff is more about finding strategies, practical, for helping the person get through the day, saturday night, next week…whether they encounter substances or not. And these have to fit for who they are, the circumstances of their life which impact on them, how they manage feelings and relationships, and what they encoutner in their lives.
So as this debate continues to continue you might want to take a look at this declaration. Interesting, and important. Called ‘The Vienna Declaration’ it asks for people to sign up to demand a ‘A full policy reorientation…’ in relation to illicit drugs. But you can read all that for yourself.