What is Harm Reduction?

According to the Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC) Harm Reduction is:

  • A set of practical strategies that reduce the negative consequences associated with high risk behaviors, such as drug use and unprotected sex.
  • Harm Reduction accepts that for better or for worse, illegal and legal drug use is a part of this world and works to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignoring or condemning the people who use drugs.
  • Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies from severe abuse to total abstinence and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.
  • Harm Reduction acknowledges that since needs are specific to individuals and communities, there is no universal definition or formula for implementing harm reduction.
  • Harm reduction strategies meet people “where they’re at” but don’t leave them there.
  • Examples of harm reduction strategies include: distribution of condoms, distribution of sterile syringes, distribution of naloxone/Narcan©, and medication-assisted treatment (MAT) (Principles of Harm Reduction, 2018).

What Harm Reduction is NOT:

  • Harm reduction does not mean “anything goes”.
  • Harm reduction does not enable drug use or high risk behaviors.
  • Harm reduction does not condone, endorse, or encourage drug use or sex work.
  • Harm reduction does not exclude or dismiss abstinence-based substance use treatment models as viable options (Principles of Harm Reduction, 2018).

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