America’s opioid epidemic has taken 64,000 lives in 2016. While many people support prosecution and strict punishment for drug users, Vancouver in British Columbia has taken a different approach with their drug use policy of harm reduction. Travis Lupick, author of Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction, explains more about how harm reduction works and where it came from.
Harm reduction seeks to solve the problems of drug addiction by alleviating the harms caused by the prohibition of drugs, rather than the drugs themselves. In Vancouver, a supervised injection facility, established based on the recommendation of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), provides a safe and clean place for drug use, without providing drugs. This has resulted in the reduction of diseases caused by unclean needles, for example, and has even provided many with a lifeline to abstinence and detox from drugs.
Although counterintuitive, harm reduction has been met with resistance within Vancouver and in several cities in the US, as well. But, the effects of this program have been undeniably positive and have been supported by medical research. By providing a space where drug users feel safe, the city is providing drug users with the chance to use drugs safely and also to eventually transition into a drug-free life. Lupick calls for more American cities to consider the benefits of this program, as well as encouraging more doctors to enter the field of addiction medicine, where they are sorely needed.
For more information about Harm Reduction or to purchase a copy of Lupick’s book, visit the links below.
Travis Lupick, author of Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle With Addiction
On October 1, 2003, Dr. Christina Crosby’s life was changed by a bicycle accident. She was paralyzed and had to learn to re-navigate her life as a quadriplegic. As a Professor of English and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University and author of A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain, her life now may be considered a heroic triumph by some. But, Crosby says many don’t understand what it’s like to live with continuous pain. She explains more about her experiences and thoughts on living in agony.
Crosby describes the sensation she feels in her body as a continuous buzz of neurological pain. While she can feel physical touch, her body is still paralyzed, which is frustrating, to say the least. Crosby’s experiences are paralleled by those of millions of Americans in chronic pain, whether from an accident like Crosby’s or something as common as arthritis. Crosby points to one particular frustration in her life, found in the doctor’s office: the 1-10 pain scale. Feeling and pain can’t be quantified, she says, and require more comprehensive language to accurately address the subjectivity.
A life in pain not only involves constant frustration and suffering but also can alienate the individual from their loved ones and society. Because of pain’s invisibility and resistance to easy description, it gets in the way of many experiences and relationships. Furthermore, Crosby explains the struggle with loss, as the individual frequently grieves what they used to be. The desire to not forget has to be balanced with the need to move forward, Crosby says. There is still life while in pain, but it requires patience and understanding from the one suffering and those around them.
For more information about living in pain or about Crosby’s book, visit the links below.
Dr. Christina Crosby, Professor of English and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Wesleyan University and author of A Body, Undone: Living On After Great Pain
Patients with asthma who haven’t responded well to treatment may be greatly helped by injections of a drug for eczema. Two studies in the New England Journal of Medicine show that patients with moderate to severe asthma reduced flare-ups by half or more after getting an injection of dupilumab,, a drug approved by the FDA for eczema in 2017. Patients taking the drug cut their emergency room visits about in half and those taking steroids for asthma were also able to reduce their dose.
Scientists have developed a prototype early warning system for the four most common types of cancer that makes a dark mole appear on the skin when it’s activated. Researchers call it a “biomedical tattoo” and say it would be inserted under the skin, monitoring genetic changes in the body. Mutations associated with lung, colon, breast or prostate cancer would make the implant turn a dark color, which would be visible through the skin. researchers say in the journal Science Translational Medicine that the test is at least 10 years away.
Surviving a heart attack may be as simple as exercise. A study in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology tracked nearly 15,000 people for 40 years. It found that more than 10 percent of them eventually had a heart attack but those who had pursued a light exercise regimen were 32 percent less likely to die from it compared to people who had been sedentary. Those exercising at least moderately were nearly 50 percent less likely to die.
And finally, researchers say walking and chewing gum at the same time amounts to good exercise. A study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science shows that chewing gum while you walk raises heart rate over walking alone, and makes people walk faster and farther. For men over 40, that adds up to a significant additional calorie burn while for women it didn’t make as much difference.