TDN’s harm reduction programme showcased at HR23 conference in Melbourne

Drugs being destroyed. Picture courtesy of Bangkok Post.

The Thai Drug Users’ Network (TDN) recently presented a harm reduction programme called “Mobile Methadone Therapy for Drug Users” at the International Conference 2023 (HR23) in Melbourne, Australia. According to John Hopkins University, harm reduction aims to protect the health of those who use drugs by providing necessary services and resources.

Nilawan Pitakpanawong, a TDN activist, discussed the importance of harm reduction in preventing drug-related deaths and ensuring healthcare access, social services, and treatment. Mobile methadone therapy launched last year in Chiang Mai’s Fang district, offering methadone to drug users in remote villages. Health officials visited communities to provide locals with the service, aiming to improve treatment access, particularly for those unable to visit hospitals.

In the previous year, 118 individuals received free methadone treatment from government health services, with 80% belonging to ethnic groups. Users reported a reduction in injections per day due to treatment, leading to improved health, finances, and family life.

Northern Thailand shares its borders with Myanmar and houses a number of ethnic communities where opium use is prevalent. However, accessing continuous methadone treatment is challenging due to geographic distance, poverty, and lack of transportation.

The TDN isn’t the only organisation promoting harm reduction. Angkhana Kantapapa, deputy director of the Ozone Foundation from Nonthaburi, introduced the “needles and syringes service delivery” model during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure the safety of drug users. Clean needles, syringes, and condoms were delivered via the Thai postal system upon request. From July 1, 2020, to August 31 of that year, the programme had 301 recipients and delivered 8,060 sets of clean needles and syringes.

The Ozone Foundation works to facilitate sustainable community-based delivery, expanding health service access for drug users in Thailand regarding HIV and other health issues. Activists from TDN and the Ozone Foundation joined other professionals at the HR23 conference, promoting harm reduction initiatives and fostering global collaboration.

Crime News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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