Foil Provision is a flawed public policy informed by ideology rather than pragmatism
Harm Reduction is nothing, if not pragmatic in its response to alcohol and other drugs issues. Despite concerted efforts to discourage and prevent the use of substances deemed dangerous by the powers that be, and punishing those individuals who insist on using these substances, there is nowhere on this planet where, drug use has been completely eradicated.
The central goal of harm reduction is to reduce harm rather than drug use per se (Ritter and Cameron 2005). This goal acknowledges that despite societies best efforts, there will be many in our communities that will continue to use drugs.
This is not to suggest that harm reduction and ceasing or moderating substance use, is mutually exclusive, it’s just not a prerequisite.
With this in mind, the U.K. Secretary of State’s recent written Ministerial Statement on the government’s acceptance of Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs advice on the lawful provision of foil is somewhat disappointing. Don’t get me wrong the introduction of legislation that enables alcohol and other drugs workers and organisations to provide foil to support the less harmful route of administration of smoking drugs rather than injecting them is a great advance, but why mandate that people can only access this possibly life-saving intervention if they agree to some form of structured ‘recovery plan’?
The strength of many harm reduction activities is the low threshold required for participation. We should be making harm reduction services as easy to access as possible rather than placing further obligations upon clients wishing to access them. There is nothing to stop someone seeking recovery from accessing an intervention like foil provision voluntarily, however the initiative as it is currently proposed will exclude others who could also potentially benefit from this strategy. It is without a doubt bad public health policy, limiting the potential of what could be an effective strategy to reduce both overdose and the transmission of blood borne viruses in order to fit into an ideological framework.
Ritter, A. & Cameron, J. (2005). Monograph No. 06: A systematic review of harm reduction. DPMP Monograph Series. Fitzroy: Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre.