The Opioid Epidemic: Task-Shifting in Health Care and the Case for Access to Harm Reduction for People Who Use Drugs [2020]

We are sadly experiencing unprecedented levels of overdose mortalities attributed to the increased availability of synthetic opioids in illegal markets. While the majority of attention in North America has focused on preventing drug overdose cases through the distribution and administration of naloxone, in addition to stricter regulations of opioid prescriptions and greater law enforcement in illegal markets, little attention has been given to other alternative models and treatments for people who use drugs that are tailored specifically to the health care needs of this marginalized population. Through this analysis, the implications of task-shifting in health care via the distribution of naloxone for an already marginalized population are discussed. Alternatively, the role of pioneering harm-reduction programs – such as supervised injection/consumption sites, a variety of opioids maintenance therapies, and social-structural interventions – are highlighted as crucial interventions in the current ongoing opioid crisis. Moreover, people with lived experiences of illegal drug use are discussed as having a pivotal role but being ultimately overshadowed by public health partners.

Ehsan Jozaghi
International Journal of Health Services, April 8, 2020