Vol. 19, ed. 1

July 2022

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As we cross over into the second half of another eventful year, it is important to take stock and reflect.

Harm reduction is essential work, but it is difficult work. Being on the frontline for even a short time takes its toll, which is why it is so important to build a supportive community through shared stories and experiences. I’m delighted that this issue does just that, featuring the stories of two courageous women who have spent decades on the frontline: Marguerite White and Jo Beckett.

Jo also lent her perspective to this month’s story on performance and image enhancing drugs (PIEDs), whose growing popularity has become a concern for some NSP workers. When asked what might be behind this trend, most of the people we spoke with pointed to the ubiquity of social media and the unattainable body types currently in vogue among ‘fitness influencers’. One expert suggested looking at the toy market, its action figures bulging with plastic muscle and sinew, a view for which there is some academic support. We long-ago accepted that Barbie dolls can contribute to a distorted self-image in girls, but few seem to have considered that boys are just as susceptible to these influences.

Consider also our skyrocketing social media use and deteriorating mental health during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic and you begin to get a sense of the complexity of the problem. Pathology, policy, technology, social factors, and physical and emotional wellbeing all lay the groundwork for a cluster of mutually reinforcing tendencies and behaviours, which we simplistically label ‘addiction.’ The majority of PIEDs – like anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) – are neither psychoactive nor habit-forming in a strict medical sense. And yet, in some cases, persuading someone to stop or reduce their use can be “as difficult as persuading patients with anorexia nervosa that they need to gain weight.

With IOAD coming up next month, we are once again ramping up our campaign to raise global awareness and education, focusing our efforts on prevention while continuing to honour those who have lost their lives to overdose. Symbolic progress can be seen in the U.S., where numerous states have passed or are pending legislation to officially recognise 31 August as IOAD. What is more important however is the action that follows. Please check out our new IOAD website at overdoseday.com and let us know if you or your community have an event planned.

Finally, a reminder to send us your feedback. We take all feedback seriously and believe that Australia’s only publication for frontline NSP workers must be shaped by frontline NSP workers. So get in touch and please share The Bulletin far and wide with your colleagues and friends.

John Ryan,
CEO, Penington Institute