Harm reduction is a term thrown around frequently in the drug using and recovery communities. But what exactly does harm reduction entail? Many assume harm reduction is basically synonymous with Needle Exchange Programs (NEP), a service which encourages IV drug users to bring in their used, dirty needles for proper disposal, in exchange for new, fresh syringes. Since the advent of this service, the drug-using community has seen a remarkable and drastic reduction in the spread of communicable and deadly diseases, like Hepatitis and AIDS. While the NEP is certainly a crucial element, the Harm Reduction movement encompasses a much wider scope. Without question, injecting drug users practice the most dangerous form of drug use, and therefore required the most immediate and drastic aid. But there is inherent risk in all drug use. Whether you shoot, smoke, sniff or swallow, there are steps you can take to make your experience with psychoactive substances safer and more enjoyable. From smoking crack to tripping out at festies, Harm Reduction services are popping up all over the place in order to address the health concerns of every type of drug user. But why stop there? It soon became clear that there was a need for this type of service in the lives of many whose personal affairs might stray just on the wrong side of the law. Harm Reduction has come to be defined as the practice, policy and services that aim to reduce the health risks associated with illicit activities, without judgement or pressure to stop the participant from engaging in said activities, including drug use and sex work.
Recently, one of my favorite recovery/harm reduction websites, thefix.com published a three part series on Harm Reduction and what exactly it entails. For anyone looking for a complete answer as to what harm reduction is and how it can be applied to their lives or the lives of their loved ones, this is an essential read. Please pass it on to anyone you know who could find value in the information provided. Especially any active drug users you know. As I’ve written many times throughout this website, while I never advice anyone to pressure their loved ones to quit, I do encourage you to frequently talk to them about safe drug use practices. It can never hurt and can only save lives!