Efforts to promote safer drug use have morphed from a public health issue to a pillar of the culture war, a Portland-area drug and alcohol counselor argues.
"I think this is bigger than even harm reduction," Kevin Dahlgren told Fox News. "This is their social justice movement where they feel like this is really a revolution, a revolution of giving a person — in a utopian world — everyone a right to do whatever they want."
"No rules, no home ownership, no businesses and a completely socialistic society where you can basically just do whatever you want," Dahlgren added. "That seems to be the ultimate goal."
Harm reduction is a strategy that provides drug users with education and supplies like clean needles, pipes and overdose-reversing naloxone. Advocates say their focus is on stopping the spread of diseases like hepatitis and HIV, keeping drug users alive and healthy.
"We're not condoning drug use. We're not condemning it either," Jose Martinez of the National Harm Reduction Coalition told Fox News. "We just want folks to be safe so that they have tomorrow. You know, we don't know what tomorrow brings."
But Dahlgren and other skeptics are disturbed by increasingly "happy" harm reduction methods like handing out meth pipes attached to Valentine's Day cards and a 2020 poster campaign in San Francisco encouraging users to "do it with friends." Dahlgren, who documents the West Coast's drug and homeless crisis, said there's no excuse for "encouraging" drug use as fentanyl wreaks havoc across the country.
"The best thing the harm reduction movement could do is be like, ‘You know what? We hate fentanyl. Fentanyl sucks, and we want nothing to do with it. And we will never glorify it, because it is killing impressionable people,'" he said.
Dahlgren said permissive attitudes toward drug use in the harm reduction community have become most apparent within the past three years.
"This happened right around when the protests started where everything just became significantly more radicalized," he said.
Millions of tax dollars are being spent on harm reduction in Dahlgren's home state. Oregon voters passed Measure 110 in 2020, decriminalizing personal use amounts of all drugs and redirecting much of the state's marijuana tax revenue to fund grants for addiction services.
The largest number of clients accessing Measure 110-funded services in the second half of 2022 were in harm reduction, followed by peer support services, according to Oregon Health Authority data. More than $3.1 million in Measure 110 grants went to harm reduction.
"You walk into most harm reduction clinics and you're going to see a lot of colorful posters and people smiling," Dahlgren said. "It's happy, and really what they're doing is they're confusing these very impressionable addicts that have lost all rational thought and critical thinking."
"They're really pushing their belief that it's okay to use and it's fun to use," he added. "That is a line that should have never been crossed."
To hear more from people on both sides of the debate, click here.