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Harm Reduction

For mental illness, community resources are more effective than jail

Too many people with a mental illness end up in jail or hospital emergency rooms. What is meant to be a last resort is often the first stop for people struggling with a mental illness. Read More »
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Innovative LEAD Program Is Showing Success

Apr 8, 2015
An evaluation of the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program has found that it is reducing recidivism rates for participants. Under LEAD, instead of prosecuting low-level drug and prostitution suspects, law enforcement officers divert them to treatment and other social services.  Read More »

End the Federal Ban on Syringe Exchange Funding

Syringe exchange programs save lives, save taxpayer money, and do no harm to society. The federal government finally lifted its decades long funding ban in 2009. Unfortunately, the ban was reinstated in December 2011 for purely political reasons. Advocates are now working to remove the funding ban once again. Read More »

The 911 Good Samaritan Law Is Working

In 2010, the ACLU of Washington was instrumental in the passage of the nation’s second “911 Good Samaritan” law. New research from the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute shows that the 911 Good Samaritan law works. Read More »

More Common Sense Instead of the War on Drugs

Congratulations to our drug reform allies in New York for passing the nation’s fourth 911 Good Samaritan Law. The law aims to save lives by encouraging people to call for emergency services when they witness overdoses. New York becomes the largest state to enact such a much-needed measure. Read More »

Painkiller Abuse: Big Problem Needs Smart Solutions

Abuse of prescription opiates (powerful pain killers) and rising overdose death rates are a huge problem in Washington and across the nation. Since 2007, overdoses have been the leading cause of accidental injury death in Washington, ahead of motor vehicle and firearm accidents. Harm reduction strategies should be included as part of the federal response for combating this crisis. Read More »

Remembering G. Alan Marlatt - Harm Reduction Pioneer

The study of psychology and addiction behaviors has lost a true pioneer. The recent passing of Professor G. Alan Marlatt has reverberated across the addiction research and drug policy communities. As a Professor of Psychology and Director of the Addictive Behaviors Research Center at the University of Washington, Dr. Marlatt broke new ground in the areas of harm reduction, relapse prevention, and evidence based treatment techniques. Read More »

National Institutes of Health Changes Approach to Addiction. Will Washington State Policy-Makers Follow Suit?

It was recently announced by the director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) that a new institute will be created that will study “substance use, abuse, and addiction research and related public health initiatives.” This institute will replace the existing National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), and other institutes dealing with addiction. As the NIH director states, creating the new, unified institute “makes scientific sense and would enhance NIH's efforts to address the substance abuse and addiction problems that take such a terrible toll on our society.” In other words, the brain processes involved with addiction are universal across substances, so we shouldn’t be studying them in a piecemeal fashion based on their legal status. Makes sense right? Perhaps it’s time our lawmakers follow suit and pass laws which treat addiction as the public health issue it is, instead of the current criminal/non-criminal system we now employ. Read More »

"Levamicoke": The Latest Collateral Damage in the War on Drugs

In a previous post, we mentioned Stranger reporter Brendan Kiley's groundbreaking piece on levamisole, a chemical used to deworm livestock, showing up as a cutting agent in the U.S. cocaine supply. Preliminary results of a testing kit distributed on the streets of Seattle suggest that 85% of the city's cocaine supply is tainted with levamisole. Read More »

Why Washington Is a Leader in Ending the War on Drugs: Exhibit A

Ending the War on Drugs means ending our over-reliance on the criminal justice system to address what is primarily a public health problem. It means replacing arrest, prosecution, and incarceration with prevention, education, and treatment as your primary strategies for reducing substance abuse and improving the health and safety of our communities. And it means ending the civil liberties, civil rights, and racial justice abuses that have flowed with terrible inevitability from our declaration of war not truly on inanimate substances, but rather on people - disproportionately people of color, young people, and poor people.

But there is reason for hope that the War on Drugs is coming to an end. And Washington is a leader in making it happen.

To support this claim, I offer Exhibit A.

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