Safer consumption kits in Maine receive backlash online

Maine Access Points, a harm reduction program in Maine, is facing criticism on news websites and on social media after promoting safer consumption practices. The nonprofit recently shared information online and in safer consumption kits explaining a practice colloquially known as “boofing,” in which a drug is consumed through the rectum rather than through an injection. This sparked conversation in news articles, on Facebook, and on X. One post on X criticizing Maine Access Points for distributing this information received one million views, 7,600 likes, 3,000 shares, and 1,400 comments as of June 21. Most comments on the post were critical of harm reduction. One reads, “...this is beyond sick. There is no upside to enabling an addict.”

Recommendation: Trending conversations about harm reduction and safer consumption provide an opportunity to educate target populations on the benefits of harm reduction programs and the intentions behind safer consumption messaging. This is especially relevant to community-based organizations and other partners in Maine. Messaging may emphasize that educating people who use drugs about alternatives to injecting drugs reduces the risk of HIV and hepatitis C transmission and reduces the risk of potential bacterial infections caused by injecting drugs. Additional messaging may emphasize that harm reduction tools like naloxone and drug test strips prevent overdose deaths and that people who use syringe services programs (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. Including prebunking messaging explaining that decades of research has shown that harm reduction programs do not increase drug use or crime in the communities they serve is also recommended.