Lecture discusses harm reduction of drug use, effects on families

“Cracks in the Community” was the second lecture in a series of three presented Tuesday to allow students to explore the new addiction studies minor, as well as provide an open forum for discussion on drug abuse and recovery.

“To me, (drug abuse) is a very pressing issue and as we talked about tonight, it’s one that we are very much behind and we need to try to get in front of it,” professor of sociology Maggie Stone said. “Which at this point seems like an impossible task, so a lot of it is providing education about what we do know and then brainstorming about what can we do and what kinds of systems can we put in place.”

One of the main topics of discussion was harm reduction, which is the idea of reducing the harm of drug use as much as possible. Stone gave the example of teaching a breastfeeding mother when she could use drugs relative to when she could breastfeed to minimize the harm to the child.

“Harm reduction is a public health policy and intervention strategic plan that looks at a person who is using drugs holistically with respect and integrity, accepts incremental changes in behavior and does not necessitate abstinence from the drug,” Stone said.

Several attendees shared their personal family experiences with drug abuse, including speaker Kim White, professor of social work, who spoke about her brother’s struggle with drugs.

“For years we knew about my brother’s addiction, but we didn’t know what to do about it,” White said. “We had no idea how to support him. We were isolated.”

White explained the effects drugs can have, not only on the individual using, but the families, and the importance of family therapy and preventing drug use from continuing for generations in a family.

“(Family therapy) is still very rare; it’s a conventional treatment for substance abuse,” White said. “We tend to focus on the individual, but it’s more cost effective in terms of positive outcomes, medication adherence, treatment adherence and completion.”

Heather Barker can be contacted at [email protected]