Substance Abuse & Opioids
"My recovery must come first so that everything I love in life does not have to come last." ~ Unknown
Substance abuse is prevalent in our society. Currently the most abused substances are opioids.
Factors that influence substance abuse can be genetic or environmental. When substance use
becomes problematic is when using a substance is impairing an individual’s health, finances,
relationships, work, or interfering with any responsibility an individual may have. Some argue
that the most important approach to substance abuse/misuse is harm reduction.
One of the simplest forms of harm reduction we practice in our society is wearing a seat belt
when we drive. The seatbelt serves to ensure we are as safe as possible when we are driving-
an activity that can be very safe or very dangerous. The act of driving a car can be dangerous,
but we cannot control people by telling them not to drive, so we teach them to do it safely. The
same is applied with the use of substances. We have laws that reduce harm from alcohol by not
allowing citizens to drink and drive, and we have electric cigarettes that reduce harm by
replacing tobacco, which is known to cause many health complications, with a nicotine solution
that is recognized as safer than the inhalation of commercially produced tobacco.
The most important thing to remember about harm reduction is education. In order to reduce
harm, we must educate ourselves and others on addiction, how certain substances affect us,
common doses of a substance and the LD50 of the substance, and the safest way to go about
using these substances.
Some will say, “Why do we want people to use heroin safely, shouldn’t they just stop using?”
The answer to that question is simple, we cannot treat an individual for substance abuse if they
are dead. Harm reduction allows individuals struggling with addiction to live another day, so
that one day they may seek treatment. We, as a society are obsessed with control, we like
control because it makes us feel comfortable. We cannot truly control everyone who uses
substances recreationally by telling them to not use substances, but we can teach them to use
these substances safely while they are in counseling and connected to other resources so that
they can achieve sobriety if that is their goal.
The main goal is to get individuals suffering with substance abuse into counseling or treatment
depending on the severity of the substance abuse. Until then counselors, friends, brothers,
sisters, daughters, sons, mothers, and fathers can educate themselves and others on common
harm reduction practices so that we can ensure the people who need help can get the help
As stated, the opioid crisis is a problem we are facing as a society now. The harm reduction
practices that are common for opioid use are: the administration of Narcan an “opioid
antidote” which is widely available in most pharmacies OTC, clean needles to prevent STI/STD
and abscesses in the skin -also available at most pharmacies OTC, Reagent testing kits and
testing strips which are available online (dancesafe.org) which help to identify a substance,
alcohol swabs available at most pharmacies, sterilized “cookers” which are spoon shaped
objects used in the process of IV drug use, and research on the LD50 of a substance, which is
the dose at which 50% of the population that take this dose will die.
Thankfully in the Acadiana area and Baton Rouge we have two wonderful harm reduction
organizations who help individuals have access to harm reduction equipment: Acadiana Harm
Reduction on Facebook (Lafayette), Capitol Area Reentry Program Inc https://www.carpbr.com
and No Overdose Baton Rouge on Facebook (Baton Rouge).
If you or any individual you know is suffering from their substance abuse and would like
counseling, Heal Your Life Counseling is here to help! Heal Your Life Counseling can provide you
or your loved one with healthier coping skills, a safe environment to express yourself, education
on harm reduction, and connection to any resources needed.