The recently-founded Tulsa organization seeks to upend the stigma around substance abuse
A recently-founded local organization aims to help change a perceived stigma against substance abusers, a stigma that leaves abusers less likely to seek help. Stop Harm on Tulsa Streets, also known as SHOTS, is a harm reduction program focused on education, compassion and real solutions for people who use drugs. Co-founded by Tulsa native Hana Fields and OU Social Work student Andrea Haddox, SHOTS’s mission is based in both the biomedical nature of addiction and their own experiences.
“Both of us are heroin addicts in recovery,” said Fields. “There are no resources like this — there’s a huge need for this here.”
Maddox agreed, stating, “We’ve both been in abstinence-based recovery for a while now. Just watching people die was starting to get to us.”
According to www.harmreductioncoalition.org, “Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.” Fields describes it as “the philosophy that people are going to engage in risky behaviors regardless” and that SHOTS wants to ensure that drug users “have the tools to keep themselves safe.” So what does that look like in practice?
For one, SHOTS has forged a number of relationships with relevant services, treatment centers and counsellors. When someone contacts SHOTS in need of a particular service, they act as a medium through which a drug user can find the help they need. SHOTS also provides Naloxone, an emergency life-saving treatment for narcotic overdose, to anyone who needs it, no questions asked.
Along with Naloxone, SHOTS also has free condoms, clean syringes and fentanyl testing strips available. Haddox and Fields understand that this element of their work is controversial; a primary criticism of harm reduction strategy is that it is enabling to drug and alcohol users.
Haddox explains the work that SHOTS does with harm reduction as being “very comparable to teaching people safe sex.” To make a comparison, abstinence-only sex education is often considered ineffective. With the lack of success coming from substance abuse prevention programs like D.A.R.E., SHOTS claims it only follows that a harm reduction strategy makes the most sense and that the lazer focus on abstinence-based recovery that our society bombards drug users with only leads to shame. SHOTS espouses the reality that drug users don’t get the chance to recover if they’re dead and that harm reduction efforts are a crucial step in saving the lives of so many people with substance use disorder.
“Breaking the stigma is one of the things that’s extremely important to us. Drug addiction is so stigmatized, people believe it’s a moral issue and not a disease. And it absolutely is a disease,” Haddox says. “We’re the first point of contact for people that usually spend most of their time in isolation. Meeting them where they are and not where we expect them to be, we can break that isolation.”
If you’re interested in contributing to the harm reduction effort here in Tulsa, SHOTS is always looking for volunteers and maintains an ongoing fundraising page at fundly.com/stop-harm-on-tulsa-streets. You can find more information about SHOTS and access resources via their Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/stopharmontulsastreets or through call/text at 918-973-2671.