NALOXONE: THE ROLE OF USER ACTIVISM
“It has been shown throughout history that if 3.5% of the general public stand up against social injustice and move for positive change then it will indeed happen….the last hundred years provide the evidence, sadly this is not the age for evidence based policy and therefore we need to stand taller and shout louder, but change will indeed come”
The role of user activism is clear and precise in it’s aim and objectives. Primarily the role is to raise awareness of the everyday issues experienced by those who are living on the frontline and experiencing the real effects of policies and procedures that affect them. Providing evidence base to counteract idealogical policies that neither support nor reflect the true needs of the user community.
Activists, both individually and in groups, have successfully initiated change in a number of area’s where it was sorely needed and the effects have been instrumental in supporting whole communities within communities to live positive and productive lives in the face of adversity, ignorance and discrimination. Exposing elements of fear of that which is not understood, misrepresentation, misunderstanding, scapegoating, etc, in media, politics and the medical industry to mention few.
As long term global economic trends sway towards a reduction in profit rates and the competition soars to an all time high, the pressures these put on governments, corporations and organisations, have produced a period in which fundamental issues of political and economic structure are at stake an the response is a divide-and-rule political arena to promote stability. This in turn promotes the negative outlook on specific groups of individuals by the term affectionately known as ‘the politics of scapegoating’ People who use substances are extremely vulnerable to this particular form of political escapism. This can, and does, divide communities in ways that weaken opposition to socioeconomic changes and policies and strengthens punitive and individualist ideologies. This then has the negative effect of allowing policies that maintain or increase drug-related harm to continue seeming less an ‘error’ than perhaps a rational way to defend the interests of the powerful.
This therefore, in my opinion, shows that there is indeed a desperate need to develop a political understanding between the policy makers and activist to expand the concept of ‘politics’ and take it beyond specific interest-group politics. Consideration of when and how it might be best to work with groups of individuals for social change from the bottom up, rather than the opposite way round. This political trickery is not only evident in the user community as the current display of negligence with regards to people’s hopes, fears, housing, employment, economic and financial security, becomes common practice in all aspects of the political arena. This may seem like a negative outlook, however, it also can provide the opportunity for collective action against the social-structural sources of the problems.
The term harm reduction has, of late, almost become a taboo subject that despite being firmly grounded in evidence based policy and procedure. In the current climate the harm reduction community is facing disinvestment and the health and safety of people who use substances, which should be of paramount importance, is not being seen as the priority that it should. This is having a detrimental effect on huge numbers of individuals within our communities. The harm reduction ethos is simple…
* To reduce the harms and risks to whole communities by raising the awareness of public health issues faced by people who use substances, looking at productive and positive cost effective solutions to the harms and risks to whole communities.
* To provide a platform for mutual aid support based on effective programs and past experience that has proven to promote the health and safety of all involved. A place where identity and a like-minded train of thought promotes unity and progress in the interests of all involved.
* To support others with similar issues or a vested interest in the care and support of those within the community by consulting and advocating at all levels on a global scale to increase the understanding of the risks and harms that may come with substance use on both individuals and whole communities.
The term harm reduction is ever evolving as the numbers of those involved grow bringing a different perspective and understanding to the platform. As trends and substance use changes, so does the concept and reach of its community members, but it’s core value is to always promote the health and safety of every member of the community by focusing on the individual’s wellbeing based on the above three main objectives.
User activism can take on many forms and ‘activism’ can be something as simple as writing a letter. Anything that ‘consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis‘ can be collated under the umbrella of activism.
The role of user activism in Naloxone provision is to raise awareness around the issues that are current in our communities with regards to drug related deaths etc. With the recent 32% rise in drug related deaths there is a dire need to provide evidence to support any kind of program that promotes reduction. It is clear that current agenda and policy does not effectively reduce the harms or risks that people who use substances face on a daily basis and based on my earlier comment around disinvestment this looks set to get even worse unless something is done about it and a return to evidence based policy and procedure can be reinstated and funded properly to secure the health and safety of the community it represents. As the evidence adds up to show that naloxone works, and the resistance loses its footing, the pressure must be applied to keep the momentum going. Activists all over the world are coming together and providing the evidence needed to support this program. With the current statistical data in UK showing that, on average, 3 individuals die every day of opioid overdose, the need for this program speaks for itself. Those living with the loss isn’t just restricted to the user community, this effects every single member of the community, emotionally, physically, mentally, financially, etc.
This can be approached by a number of ways with regards to activism and actively promoting naloxone in the community. There are a number of websites and groups that have all the information needed around naloxone, the product, the uses, the evidence, the statistics and the law to start a campaign or indeed to join an already existing one. There are also a number of groups and organisations that offer free training. Which once it has been given can be cascaded wherever needed. Lobbying local politicians, and other similar members of the community is another angle that can be taken. Petitions either hand collected or electronically collated can be used to approach health and wellbeing boards, clinical commissioning groups, service providers and other similar groups or organisations. Mutual aid groups and collectives can be set up and have proven to be successful in the form of action groups and harm reduction cafe’s where the main topic has been, but not exclusively, drug related deaths and solutions to reduce the effects this has on communities.
Making yourself available for any consultation in any arena that evolves around the topic and joining the dots in your community. As members of an already vilified and demonised community it is in the interests of everyone who has ever suffered at the hands of ideology, ignorance, discrimination and all it’s trimmings to join together and make sure that as a voice we are heard.
The substances that can induce overdose are not restricted to illicit use, in fact, the majority opioid substances that can be evident in overdose situations are prescribed medications. However due to the barriers that have risen through discrimination and socio-political design it is the illicit use that gets highlighted as the main concern and due to the afore mentioned reasons and negative media coverage the design effect is resulting in disinvestment with fatal outcomes as those who use drugs become the scapegoats of a society that has become part of the problem rather than part of the solution for many.
“HUMAN RIGHT NUMBER ONE: EVERY HUMAN BEING HAS THE RIGHT TO LIVE….”