How Diverting Opioids Can Be Harm Reduction

published on November 22, 2021 by Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard in Talking Drugs

What cops and regulators consider to be the boogeyman of the Canadian overdose crisis is in fact a tactic that criminalized drug consumers and their advocates believe is a means of survival in the face of an ever-more potent, volatile illicit drug supply.

They’re talking about ‘diversion’, the use of medicines for purposes or by consumers unauthorized by prescribers or regulators. For years, it has been accepted by the medical establishment as a driver of overdose and addiction. In a transformative shift in discourse, drug-user activists and researchers are speaking out about how the pharmaceutical-quality of diverted prescription opioids (PO) can actually reduce overdose risks, and how the income from their sale empowers diverters to get what they need to survive—all evidenced by a growing body of literature.

“What they call diversion, we call helping each other out and keeping ourselves safe,” says Guy Felicia [sic], a harm reduction advocate who uses his experience as a formerly-unhoused drug consumer to advance policy reform. “If I saw someone who was in withdrawal and I [had] a couple of Dilaudid, I would give that to them.”

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