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Raise a Glass to Harm Reduction!

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

Benoit Denizet-Lewis (himself a recovering addict) offers a brief commentary in today’s Times on St. Anthony House, a residential facility for hardcore alcoholics that allows them to keep drinking.

The Road to St. Anthony's


This kind of harm reduction focused program, which aims not to reform the (often homeless) alcoholics, but to mitigate the damage theydo to themselves and society, receives frequent coverage in the mainstream press of the “man bites dog” variety.  (See, for example, Malcolm Gladwell’s “Million Dollar Murray” in the The New Yorker a few years ago.)  Central in such stories is always the argument that this kind of program is far less expensive than sending the alcoholic on another trip through the revolving door of treatment– the St. Anthony House website itself foregrounds this fact.  Umm… is that neoliberalism?  Or is that just a canny deployment of fiscal conservatism in order to cover a radical agenda?  Points would like nothing more than to get the perspective of social scientists and historians working in this area.

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