Something that never gets said enough is that the drug war is racist. This is not an opinion any more than it is an opinion that the American Civil War was fought over slavery. Both were crafted by racists to serve racist agendas of controlling people based on their skin color. It is why it is more urgent than ever that we dismantle this system of oppression, the so-called war on drugs, which would be perhaps better described as simply a war on people.
In many ways, prohibition is far more harmful to people than the drugs that are banned. Harm reduction is a philosophy and a practice that aims to fill in the gaps—if we can’t have a safe, regulated drug supply for heroin or meth like we do with alcohol or tobacco, sometimes even cannabis, then maybe we can make drug use more safe in other ways. Here’s some sterile syringes, here’s some naloxone, here’s a phone number you can call if you want to get counseling, etc…
Narcotica hosts Zachary Siegel and Troy Farah talk with Haley Coles from Sonoran Prevention Works, a grassroots harm reduction non-profit in Phoenix, Arizona that works against some of the structural issues surrounding communities impacted by drug use in Arizona. The infrastructure of harm reduction in the Grand Canyon State is scarce compared to a lot of states—syringe access is still illegal, for example—so there’s a lot of room for growth. We discuss racial justice in the field of harm reduction, where the movement has fallen short, and how things can get better.
Follow Sonoran Prevention Works on Twitter @spw_az
You can read SPW’s BLM statement here: https://mailchi.mp/spwaz/black-lives-matter
If you liked this episode, here are others you might enjoy:
Episode 44: Reimagining Public Health and Racial Justice
Episode 42: Supervised Consumption is an Essential Service
Hot Spots 1 – 3 Arizona, Iowa and Nova Scotia
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Producers: Christopher Moraff, Troy Farah, Zachary Siegel
Co-producer: Garrett Farah
Music: Glass Boy
Image: PXhere // edit: Troy Farah
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2 comments on Episode 47: Can Harm Reduction and Cops Coexist?
I am so grateful for this podcast and for the harm reduction movement in general. I am 40 years old and have lost decades of my life to treatment that I knew was ineffective and violated my basic human and civil rights. This (harm reduction) has always been my home – I just didn’t know it until the last couple of years. And this podcast sounds to me more soothing then classical music, guided meditation or any of the traditional things at one considers soothing. I sometimes use it to fall asleep because I’m hearing words that validate feelings I have had for the entirety of my adult life but never had an outlet that I could express them safely inside of, much less one that actually endorses them and sees them as how we get ourselves out of second class citizenship. The so-called recovery groups that I have been a member of make me feel like I sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher when I bring up subjects like social justice and how people who use substances aren’t even protected under the Americans with disabilities act. I am in the greater Boston area and if I could find a way to connect with the Harm reduction folks in Boston, I would be forever grateful because I feel like even the term ‘harm reduction’ is profane in the settings I have access to and this occurs as I am watching my friends die and become homeless and I don’t feel like we will ever become fully ‘human’ until we dismantle not just stigma but the legal prejudice and discrimination we experience every motherfucking day. I am luckier than most as I have gone to college but it doesn’t ever matter how smart I am how much more knowledgeable I am than those who oppose what I try to bring to light, I never win. And I think it’s because I pose an existential threat to everything that holds them up and is their belief system. I think harm reduction in general does that to all of these traditional recovery people who would have to change fundamentally the way they see the world and themselves if they were to embrace harm reduction as their belief system.
I feel like I could go on forever because it’s been pent-up inside of me all of these years – just how fucked up the way people view ‘addiction’ and the people who are affected by it. My own family have been the worst and it one point wanted to send me to a “Christian rehab“ in which they deal with evil spirits-they wanted to have me exorcised. I left the church at 19 on purpose because nothing about the Christians I knew had anything to do with living like Christ. And when I went to my first meeting as an adult of Alcoholics Anonymous, I saw the Judeo Christian parallels in 2.3 seconds. Give me a break ‘it’s not a religious program’…
That’s enough for me tonight. I hope to find it among people in this movement especially after this pandemic is under better wraps or done with completely. This podcast is a lullaby to me and thank you from the bottom of my hard for what you do.
And fuck Joe Arpio – not to mention his mentor/hero and the demon that gave him birth – Harry Anslinger …
PS – i’m sorry my remarks one more specific to the subject of the podcast itself tonight. I just had to let this out and to say thank you to all of the amazing beautiful wonderful people who have been my teachers although online and not in person you have done more for me then every therapist drug counselor detox or rehab social worker psychiatrist and a member of 12 step group combined. Actually, they hurt me largely. You are setting me free.