Harm Reduction: Shifting from a War on Drugs to a War on Drug-Related Deaths

Conference
March 21, 2019
8:15AM to 3:15PM EDT
Hayek Auditorium, Cato Institute

The U.S. government’s current strategy of trying to restrict the supply of opioids for nonmedical uses is not working. While government efforts to reduce the supply has reduced both the amount of legally manufactured prescription opioids and the number of opioid prescriptions, deaths from opioid-related overdoses are nevertheless accelerating. Research shows that the increase is due, in large part, to substitution of illegal heroin and fentanyl for the now harder-to-get prescription opioids. Attempting to reduce overdose deaths by doubling down on this approach will not produce better results. Policymakers can reduce overdose deaths and other harms stemming from nonmedical use of opioids and other dangerous drugs by switching to a policy of harm-reduction. Harm reduction has a success record that prohibition cannot match and involves a range of public health options.

Unlike prohibition, harm-reduction strategies begin with the realistic and nonjudgmental premise that there has never been, and will never be, a drug-free society. Akin to the credo of the medical profession — “First, do no harm” — harm reduction seeks to avoid measures that exacerbate the harm that prohibition already inflicts on nonmedical users and seeks to focus on the goal of reducing deaths and the spread of disease from drug use.

This conference, featuring clinical and research experts in epidemiology, public health, addiction treatment, and harm reduction, will examine the record of various harm-reduction modalities in the developed world and will consider their potential for ameliorating the problems caused by drug prohibition.


Schedule

7:45 - 8:15AM REGISTRATION

8:15 - 8:25AM WELCOMING REMARKS

Jeffrey A. Singer, MD, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

8:25 - 9:30AM PANEL I: SAFE SYRINGE PROGRAMS/SAFE CONSUMPTION FACILITIES

Darwin Fisher, Program Manager/Clinic Coordinator, Insite, supervised injection facility, Vancouver, British Columbia
Clark Neily, Vice President for Criminal Justice, Cato Institute
Edward G. Rendell, Former Governor of Pennsylvania



Download the video of the Welcoming Remarks and Panel 1
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9:30 - 10:30AM PANEL II: DEATH, DISEASE, AND PROHIBITION

Jeffrey Miron, Director of Graduate and Undergraduate Studies, Harvard University; Director of Economic Studies, Cato Institute
Maia Szalavitz, Award-winning author, neuroscience journalist; Soros Justice Fellow; Author of Unbroken Brain



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10:30 - 10:45AM BREAK

10:45 - 11:45AM PANEL III: EXPANDED ROLES FOR NALOXONE AND CANNABIS?

Trevor Burrus, Research Fellow, Robert A. Levy Center for Constitutional Studies, Cato Institute
Corey S. Davis, Deputy Director, Staff Attorney, Network for Public Health Law
Adrianne Wilson-Poe, Moron-Concepcion Laboratory, Washington University School of Medicine



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11:45AM - 12:30PM LUNCHEON

12:30 - 1:30PM KEYNOTE ADDRESS: CHANGING DYNAMICS OF THE DRUG OVERDOSE EPIDEMIC IN THE UNITED STATES FROM 1979 THROUGH 2016

Donald S. Burke, Dean, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health
Moderated by Michael F. Cannon, Director, Health Policy Studies, Cato institute



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1:30 - 1:45PM BREAK

1:45 - 3:10PM PANEL IV: MEDICATION ASSISTED TREATMENT, INCLUDING HEROIN ASSISTED TREATMENT

Daniel Ciccarone, Professor of Family and Community Medicine, University of California San Francisco Medical Center; Principal Investigator of “Heroin in Transition Study” (NIH/NIDA)
Beau Kilmer, Senior Policy Researcher, RAND Corporation; Codirector, RAND Drug Policy Research Center
D. Scott MacDonald, Physician Lead, Providence Crosstown Clinic, Vancouver, British Columbia, Heroin Assisted Treatment Program



Download the video of Panel 4
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3:10 - 3:15PM CLOSING REMARKS

Jeffrey A. Singer, MD, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute