A large part of harm reduction work is discussing sharing issues with people who use drugs. Of course this is mainly focused around stopping sharing behaviours. But shouldn't we be finding out why someone shares first?
Why do people share
Because it's normal to share... Think back to childhood, your mom always told you "you should share nicely", Facebook asks you to share articles and photos, in fact in almost every aspect of life sharing is seen as positive. Wikipedia even says:
Sharing the joint use of a resource or space. In its narrow sense, it refers to joint or alternating use of an inherently finite good, such as a common pasture or a shared residence.
So when you think about it, telling people they shouldn't share goes against every part of social learning they've had. And that's just the start...
It's who people share with that decides the reasons
Think about all the possible people someone shares with:
- Many, many more
Each has different possible reasons, for instance in a long term relationship where people are living together sharing food, bed and money, then sharing is just another aspect of life that shows how close you are. However in the same relationship the sharing can also be linked in with someone being injected by another as a form of control (eg "you can't get yourself so you need me around").
When someone shares with dealers of course there is a totally new set of pressures. When I was delivering a workshop a couple of years ago one young crack pipe user told me that they didn't think they'd last long if they refused to share a pipe with a Yardie just in case he had HepC. And this is of course a fair point, part of our role as health educators and harm reduction workers is to equip people with refusal skills for this kind of scenario.
Trust is the big issue
One thing is clear, one of the biggest reasons people share is due to trust issues like the young guy had about Yardies or people have in day to day relationships.
Even when it comes to sharing with strangers it may be that people are fostering new trust realtionships that increase their social capital. If I have a needle that I've only used once and someone I don't know wants to use it then they'll be more likely to do something for me when I need it.
Not "do you share" but "why do you share"
Its clear that just asking people ‘Have you shared in the last 4 weeks' (standard information required by the NTA in the UK) doesn't even get people started on addressing the issues around sharing, we need to be talking to people more about the reasons for peoples sharing behaviours rather than blindly focusing on telling people to stop.
Nigel Brunsdon is the owner of Injecting Advice.com. He's been working in harm reduction since the 1990's, although he's previously a frontline needle programme worker he now spends most of his time developing online resources for drugs workers and users.