4/1/13 ASHLAND, Ohio - Drug abuse and addiction are in all of our communities and more often now even in our own families. Addiction is a multifaceted problem with many causes and many consequences. Not only does it impact the individual, but it undeniably affects family, friends and the community. Many who thought that drug abuse was a distant problem existing only in other families and in other towns are now feeling the personal toll of loved ones, friends and neighbors who have become involved.
David Slyter, BSN, an emergency room nurse and a Free Clinic volunteer, will present a talk on “Harm Reduction in Health Care” as an alternate philosophy to dealing with drug abuse and addiction. The presentation, sponsored by Ashland Center for Nonviolence, will be held in the Ridenour Room of the Dauch College of Business and Economics on the Ashland University campus, on Wednesday, April 17, at 7 p.m.
The event is free and the public is invited. Social worker and counselor continuing education credit will be available through the Kroc Center, provider #RCS050903.
Historically drug addiction has been addressed using prohibitive language, often demonizing the substance and criminalizing the user. The “War on Drugs” has been the predominant public philosophy for decades, setting the backdrop in which Americans discuss addiction, treatment, prevention and public health. Millions of dollars in taxpayer money are going annually to policing and incarceration and to emergency medical care.
However, nationally there has been a steady increase in drug prevalence and abuse, despite the exploding incarceration rate for drug offenses. Many law enforcement and health care agencies are sharing reports that heroin is now cheaper and more easily obtainable than prescription drugs such as Vicodin. According to the Center for Disease Control, drug overdose deaths have increased five-fold between 1990 and 2007. If eradication of drug abuse is the goal, current efforts are not working.
Harm Reduction is an alternate philosophy that seeks to minimize harmful consequences of addiction, such as death from overdose and the spread of HIV and hepatitis C. One major principle of harm reduction is that it accepts that, for better or worse, licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize harmful consequences rather than ignore or condemn them. The history of harm reduction is rooted in the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, although there were programs utilizing this philosophy even earlier.
Syringe exchange programs, naloxone prescription services and safe injection sites are just a few of the projects that have been shown to decrease overdose deaths and slow the spread of disease. Harm reduction aims to incorporate a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use, to abstinence to meet drug users “where they’re at.” These interventions and policies should be designed to reflect individual and community needs; there is no “universal definition” for implementing harm reduction.
Slyter’s presentation will share further information about what harm reduction looks like, as well as give some examples from other parts of the world. He will provide information on programs in Ohio, as well as connect with people who may have an interest in addressing the negative consequences of drug use in our local communities.
Slyter received his Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Washington with a minor in bioethics and humanities in 2011. He was active in an undergraduate medical ethics club, organizing debates and attending national conferences. During his two years in nursing school he developed a strong interest in harm reduction philosophy as it applied to public health, appearing on a number of local Pacific Northwest programs. He moved to Ashland in 2011 with his spouse, Dr. Sharleen Mondal, and is currently working at MedCentral Mansfield as an emergency department nurse. He also volunteers at the Free Clinic of Cleveland.
The Ashland Center for Nonviolence at Ashland University, sponsor of this program, is located on the AU campus. The Center seeks a world in which human conflict at all levels can be resolved without resorting to violence and in which social justice can be realized.
For more information about ACN events, or to learn more about the Ashland Center for Nonviolence, please call 419-289-5313 or visit the website at www.ashland.edu/acn.
Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2013, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.