Syringe Access and Harm Reduction: Progress and Challenges
Over 100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2021, and thousands more contracted preventable infectious diseases through the reuse and sharing of injection equipment. Harm reduction comprises a set of strategies which seek to address the negative consequences of the opioid epidemic at the community level, primarily by providing sterile syringes & clean injection equipment; distributing the overdose-reversal medication naloxone; and connecting individuals to housing, healthcare, food, and substance use treatment. Despite strong evidence for the efficacy harm reduction-based interventions, the stigma associated with poverty and injection drug use continue to generate considerable opposition to harm reduction and syringe access programs.
This talk will serve as an introduction to harm reduction and will include a discussion of efforts to provide harm reduction services to a predominantly-unhoused population of people who use drugs in Orange County, CA – currently the largest county in the United States without an operating syringe exchange. This event is part of a monthly science policy series hosted by Stanford Science Policy Group and Scientists Speak Up.
Tim McMullen is a co-founder and board member of the Harm Reduction Institute, a nonprofit organization serving the needs of people who use drugs in Orange County, CA. He is also an MD/PhD student at the University of California, Irvine where he studies tumor immunology in breast cancer.