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One woman's controversial fight to make America accept drug users for who they are

"Let me just say, I didn't start doing harm reduction because I wanted to save the world," she said. "I wanted to save myself. I need a family. I didn't want to feel rejected anymore."

A mentally ill homeless woman experiencing addiction leans on a rail after wetting her hair at a drinking fountain in the Skid Row area of Los Angeles, Monday, May 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) Jae C. Hong/AP



Federal researchers say roughly 27.2 million Americans experience some kind of drug addiction. Roughly 5 million to 6 million people in the U.S. misuse opioids every year.

Opioids like fentanyl and heroin are especially difficult to escape. Relapses are common.

Most experts agree the U.S. has failed to create the kind of health care system needed to help more people recover.

Vincent's argument — laid out at conferences and public appearances — is that the U.S. needs to reinvent addiction care by treating drug users with dignity, helping them avoid the worst outcomes.

The addiction strategies Vincent supports include:

  • giving drug users basic healthcare and access to clean needles and other supplies that are proven to reduce disease such as HIV-AIDS and Hepatitis C

  • making medical treatments for opioid addiction, like methadone and buprenorphine, far more accessible and affordable

  • when street drug use threatens to disrupt neighborhoods, responding with affordable housing, counseling and other supports, not more arrests.

"Let me just say, I didn't start doing harm reduction because I wanted to save the world," she said. "I wanted to save myself. I need a family. I didn't want to feel rejected anymore."






November 19, 20237:53 AM ET Brian Mann

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