Maia SzalavitzApr 15, 2022
The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction
Hachette GO 2021
Undoing Drugs: The Untold Story of Harm Reduction and the Future of Addiction (Hachette Go, 2021) tells a long-running, but largely unknown, story of how a few people and groups – propelled at first by the AIDS pandemic -- swam against one of the most powerful policy tides in America – our nation’s 50-year war on drugs. Maia Szalavitz’s book is a personal and political history of the idea of harm reduction, which is a philosophy, a set of health practices, and a call to action. Harm reduction is a powerful alternative to virtually all of the “conventional wisdom” about drugs and drug policy. Harm reduction starts by asserting that the health and safety of drug users, their families, and their communities should be the top priority of drug policy. Undoing Drugs is a global story, with stops in Liverpool, Amsterdam, the San Francisco Bay Area, Vancouver, Glasgow, and New York. By giving life to the saying that “the personal is political,” Szalavitz shows how America might still turn away from the massive failures of the drug war to embrace an approach that seeks to put people first.
Steve Beitler’s work in the history of medicine focuses on how pain has been understood, treated, experienced, and represented. Recently published articles examined the history of opiates in American football and surveyed the history of therapeutic drugs. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.