Harm Reduction Definition (Streetworks-October 15,2015)
Harm Reduction is a comprehensive, just and science-based approach to substance use. It represents policies, strategies and services which aim to assist people who use legal and illegal psychoactive drugs to live safer and healthier lives. All substances have both positive and negative effects and substance use may affect one’s health and legal vulnerability. Harm Reduction recognizes that people use drugs for many reasons. Reduction of substance use and/or abstinence is not required in order to receive respect, compassion or services. It is clear that most people who use substances do not experience problems, but in some circumstances, substance use can become dependent and/or chaotic. Harm Reduction enhances the ability of people who use substances to have increased control over their lives and their health, and allows them to take protective and proactive measures for themselves, their families and their communities.
- Is based on evidence, both from science and lived experience.
- Is rooted in compassion and justice.
- Challenges stigma and discrimination.
- Addresses policies and laws that create risk environments and harm to individuals, communities, and particularly marginalized groups. Harm Reduction approaches reject the notion that the use of criminal law should be the sole response to illicit substance use.
- Recognizes that the regulation of substances will decrease costs to health, justice and social systems, decrease violence, increase access to prevention, care, treatment and support services, decrease barriers, decrease racial profiling, and respect the human rights of people who use substances.
- Seeks creative solutions that are pragmatic, cost effective, and sensitive to the available resources, social context, and personal history of individuals. It challenges people to be courageous and think outside of the box.
- Promotes thoughtful, balanced and well researched approaches to the actual harms of substances and encourages truthful drug education.
- Advocates for enhanced and effective treatment options.
- Includes non-judgmental, client centred, strength-based services that provide the skills, knowledge, resources and support for people to live safer and healthier lives.
- Does not encourage drug use, enable harmful drug use, or “give up” on people. Harm Reduction approaches do quite the opposite - increasing access to services and creating a milieu of support for positive change.
Streetworks, Oct. 15, 2015
The Canadian Harm Reduction Network. www.canadianharmreduction.com
Harm reduction Coalition. Committed to reducing drug-related harm among individuals and communities by initiation and promoting local, regional, and national harm reduction education, interventions and community organizing. www.harmreduction.org
Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. A national network advancing changes in drug policy. www.drugpolicy.ca/
International Harm Reduction Association. An international professional association for individuals and organizations concerned with the development of drug policies to reduce the harmful consequences of drug use and current drug policies. www.ihra.net
Information on disposing of used needles safely, provided by the City of Edmonton.