Country music artist shares support for harm reduction in Rolling Stone article

Last week, a Rolling Stone article celebrated country music artists who are singing and speaking about the opioid crisis and their own experiences with substance use disorder. Country music artist Jamie Wyatt, who was interviewed for the article and spoke in favor of harm reduction, shared the article on Instagram and wrote that “harm reduction must be discussed and embraced.” Multiple comments on the post echoed support for harm reduction programs. In response to Rolling Stone sharing the article on Facebook, one commenter alleged that the opioid crisis has “little to do with prescription pain medication.” This comment is an example of attempts to separate people with opioid prescriptions from people who illegally purchase opioids and other drugs, which may increase stigma against people who illegally purchase opioids and other drugs.

Recommendation:This article and social media posts about the article provide an opportunity to recirculate existing messaging about what harm reduction programs do and how they benefit communities. Messaging may emphasize that harm reduction tools like naloxone and drug test strips prevent overdose deaths, that syringe services programs (SSPs) reduce rates of HIV and hepatitis C by approximately 50 percent, and that people who use SSPs are five times more likely to enter drug treatment programs and three times more likely to stop using drugs than those who do not use SSPs. Ensuring that informational materials use non-stigmatizing language to refer to people with substance use disorder and explain that anyone can develop substance use disorder—even if they are prescribed opioids by a doctor—is recommended. Including prebunking messaging explaining that decades of research has shown that SSPs do not increase drug use or crime in the communities they serve is also recommended.