Paul Cherashore from the Philadelphia Overdose Prevention Initiative spoke to our class about the need for people who actively use drugs to be included in conversations about government policy.

Cherashore said he has lobbied Philadelphia’s Opioid Task Force to open safe injection sites (also known as CUES) and to institutionalize harm reduction policies more broadly.

Cherashore said people who actively use drugs have not been included in the current citywide conversations about safe injection sites, or CUES. If they were included in creating these sites, the atmosphere would probably feel less clinical or medicalized, and instead more relaxed, Cherashore said.

Cherashore also pointed out that people in recovery are invited to discuss public policy because they no longer use drugs, meaning they are viewed by some as “socially redeemed,” Cherashore said.

Cherashore also went on to discuss people’s right to use drugs and self-medicate. He said often the poor are stigmatized for their self-medication because they don’t have access to doctors the way rich people do.

He also added that recovery doesn’t always have to be the goal for people who use drugs, which I thought was an interesting point we haven’t really heard from other speakers.

Cherashore said people often choose dangerous hobbies to partake in, including rock climbing, driving fast or drinking alcohol. He posed the question: Why should drug use be any different?

Personally, I am a bit skeptical of the idea Cherashore presented about the right to use drugs, as I’m sure many other people are; however, this skepticism may be cause for more coverage of this topic by the news media.