Decolonizing Harm Reduction
We know that reclaiming one’s identity is key to healing from trauma. Recovering “traditional values, beliefs, philosophies, ideologies, and approaches and adapting them to the needs of today” (Marsh et al, 2015) is necessary to healing from both trauma and problematic substance use for Indigenous women.
This means working on addressing the negative impacts of colonialist policies and values in all aspects of our lives, including harm reduction.
For example, decolonizing harm reduction can look like pushing back against “tough love” attitudes like banishing addicts or dealers from communities, or criminalizing (or re-criminalizing) people who use drugs.
Self-determination is key for someone navigating their relationship with substances – we must grant individuals, families and communities the space and support to decide what works best for them, and what they need to do in order to survive and thrive.