Daily Distraction: Read Jack Shuler's story on overdoses, harm reduction in The Atlantic

'Grassroots harm-reduction advocates’ organizing principle is love.'

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Trish Perry of Newark, Ohio

Last year, Jack Shuler, author and chair of the Journalism major at Denison University, published This is Ohio: The Overdose Crisis and the Front Lines of a New America, which tells the story of women (including Trish Perry, pictured above) and men involved in grassroots efforts to combat addiction and deadly overdoses in Newark, Ohio. (Check out our 2020 interview with Shuler here, and read an excerpt from the book via Columbus Monthly here.)

Over the weekend, Shuler published a story in The Atlantic titled, "What Those in Power Are Missing About the Opioid Epidemic," in which he again makes the case for employing harm-reduction strategies to combat the ongoing overdose crisis.

"People who use drugs and those who love them have helped reverse thousands of overdoses in the United States, saving friends, family members, and strangers," Shuler writes. "They’ve done this work without recognition, without fanfare, and sometimes at great risk to themselves. They know firsthand the benefits of access to sterile syringes, naloxone, and drug-testing strips, which detect the presence of fentanyl in a particular drug. But few in power listen to their advice. Some state and local governments actively ignore them. If local governments want to tackle the opioid crisis, they need to listen more to harm-reduction advocates, especially those in hard-hit communities."

The organizing principle behind harm reduction, Shuler argues, is love: "This kind of love is not admonishing people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. And it’s not the showy, egocentric do-goodism primed for viral videos. Radical love is unconditional, and so is evidence-based harm reduction, which asks nothing from the people being helped."

Read the whole thing here.