The recent North American surge in opioid addiction and fatal drug overdoses has been devastating. In 2017, opioid overdoses became the leading cause of death for U.S. citizens under the age of 50. Cities across the continent have begun to search for new approaches that turn the focus from criminal punishment to saving lives. The successful and radical "harm reduction" model developed in Vancouver has attracted much attention from health officials and legislators, as well as opposition from those who believe it will promote drug use. "It's a simple yet revolutionary idea: that everybody deserves a home regardless of their drug abuse or destructive behaviour, and that an addict is a human being who should be treated with dignity."
In Fighting for Space, Canadian journalist Travis Lupick tells how a group of activists in the poorest neighborhood in Canada demanded and won a new approach to drug addiction as an illness rather than as a moral failure or a crime. He incorporates the individual stories of addicts, nurses, counselors and activists into case studies of Vancouver and six U.S. cities, some more successful than others.
Lupick has reported on drug addiction, mental illness and harm reduction for years. He documents how previous approaches such as one-for-one needle exchanges have failed, and how programs have worked to keep users alive, housed and relatively healthy, and make treatment available without coercion. This is a vivid portrait of the people on the front lines of the North American overdose crisis, and a vital resource for activists and policy makers seeking the best way to save lives. --Sara Catterall