Assistant Professor Publishes Paper on Harm Reduction

Brandon Brown

Students play key roles in reducing negative consequences associated with drug use, indicates a research paper published by Brandon Brown, assistant professor in the Center for Healthy Communities at the UC Riverside School of Medicine, along with two UC Irvine students.

The team argues in the research paper, published in Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, that students – especially professional and graduate students – have the potential to serve as organizers and leaders of harm reduction organizations.

“Harm reduction” refers to strategies and ideas that aim to reduce the negative consequences linked to drug use. Brown and his coauthors focused on needle exchange programs (NEPs), which have been shown, despite poor government funding and high stigma, to promote wellness among people who inject drugs.

“NEPs are excellent public health programs for students to build, operate and advocate for,” said Brown, the research paper’s senior author. “We encourage medical students to learn about and consider organizing needle exchange programs during their training. They would benefit from the high respect their future professions already bestow on them; they are capable of quickly learning harm reduction cultural approaches and methods; and, where needle exchanges are concerned, students do not require significant licensing barriers, clinical knowledge, and infrastructure that characterize more traditional student medical care programs.  Finally, by participating in NEPs, students gain valuable experience in advocacy, working with vulnerable populations, organization-building, and political finesse.”

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