Bringing Out the Best In Each Other

Room – Main Ballroom 3:30 pm February 22nd, 2023, Hyatt Regency Centre, Calgary Alberta

Speaker – Dr Julian M Somers

Recovery Capital Conference

Session Description

This talk will look back in order to look forward, and describes opportunities to end tensions that have formed between sectors identified with Harm Reduction and Addiction Recovery respectively.

Methadone maintenance therapy emerged in North America in the 1950s, leaving an indelible mark on public addiction treatment. The first research publications appeared a few years later and described programs operating independently in New York and Vancouver. Despite their separate origins the two programs were remarkably similar with respect to the people they served (referred to by both teams as “addicts”), their modest inclusion of methadone, and the importance they placed on long-term supports capable of helping “addicts” to reintegrate into society.

By the 1980s public addiction treatment was woefully insufficient in many countries, causing drug users to band together and help one another. Harm Reduction emerged from the Dutch Junkiebond and contemporaneous groups elsewhere in Europe and North America. These groups emphasized opportunities to reduce harms caused by drugs and by policies under the War on Drugs. AIDS and other ensuing forces caused harms to multiply, and the practice of Harm Reduction was preoccupied by mitigating their proliferation.

New writing on addiction offers a conceptual opportunity to align Harm Reduction and Addiction Recovery in the service of long term person-centred goals. This new writing evokes some of the same themes that guided early methadone programs, but also incorporates crucial lessons learned in ensuing years. The result is an opportunity for Harm Reduction and Addiction Recovery to bring out the best in each other so that we might all be our best for those we aim to help.

Learning Objectives

  1. Know the origins of effective methadone maintenance therapy and its inclusion of practices that reduce harms and promote recovery from addiction.
  2. Know major reasons for the current rift between services associated with harm reduction and addiction recovery respectively.
  3. Know major recent developments that create opportunities for unification among people who wish to help those who struggle with addictions.


  1. Davidson L, Rowe M, DiLeo P, Bellamy C, Delphin-Rittmon M (2021). Recovery-oriented systems of care: a perspective on the past, present, and future. Alcohol Research 41(1):09
  2. Dole VP, Nyswander ME & Warner A (1968). Successful treatment of 750 criminal addicts. JAMA 206(12) 2708-2711
  3. Marlatt GA (1996). Harm reduction: come as you are. Addictive Behaviors 21(6):777-788

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Alberta model

a $600 CACCF Value