The first, most important step is to increase access to, and continue to develop accurate, non-judgmental education programs on safer drug use and overdose prevention strategies. Important harm reduction strategies include:
- Never use alone
- Don’t mix opioids with other depressants like alcohol and benzodiazepines
- Keep naloxone on hand
- Use drug checking equipment such as fentanyl test strips
There are also a number of policies that should be expanded to promote a public health approach to the presence of illicitly-manufactured fentanyls and synthetic opioids in the supply:
- Expand and protect 911 Good Samaritan laws.
- Expand community-based naloxone access and distribution.
- Expand Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT).
- Improve drug checking, surveillance, and data collection and make them more widely accessible.
- Authorize Overdose Prevention Centers (OPC) on the state and local level.
- Fund pilot injectable opioid treatment as an option for some people with chronic heroin use disorder.
Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) has put together recommendations for a comprehensive response to the overdose crisis that includes these harm reduction initiatives as well as others. DPA also works to ensure these life-saving strategies don’t meet with political resistance. When it comes to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, we must ensure that any new laws do not imitate ineffective drug war tactics by relying on criminal punishment rather than a public health approach.