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Harm reduction for people who use stimulants

One of Mainlines most interesting sessions in the harm reduction networking zone was about harm reduction for those who use stimulants because they are often not targeted by harm reduction services. 

In addition, service providers are sometimes at a loss as to what they can offer people who use stimulants. The session started with an introduction by Monica Ciupagia about UNODCs work on HIV among people who inject stimulants. Mat Southwell (CoACT) then took the floor and provided insight in the peer process that led to the development of this guideline. He provided some practical examples on how you can approach health issues caused by stimulant use. 

Laura Nevendorff (Atma Jaya Catholic University in Jakarta, Indonesia) presented her study on the prevalence of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis (B and C) among those who use methamphetamines. She found that even people who have never injected, but rather smoke their drugs, are at a higher risk of contracting infectious diseases. This is due to the sexual risk that people take while under the influence or to get enough money to buy their drug.

Mainline researcher Rafaela de Quadros Rigoni presented the first results of our study on good practices of harm reduction for those who use stimulants. This report is expected to come out next month and will provide practical interventions and a comprehensive overview of ‘what works’.

The session was closed by Shaun Shelly (TB/HIV Care Association, South Africa) who gave a powerful speech about the principles of the contemplation groups that he designed for those who use meth and other drugs in South Africa. 


The discussion after the session was lively. We addressed the question of whether there is a specific need for harm reduction for people who use stimulants. We believe: yes there is a need for these services. Some health needs are specific to the use of stimulants, such as specific mental health issues as a consequence of disrupted sleeping and eating patterns. However, we also concluded that services that offer people a sense of belonging and connectedness are always relevant- regardless of the drug you use.

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