Most of what we all see and hear with regard to substance abuse and addiction has a goal of abstinence. A contrasting approach has the sole goal of reducing harm done by people who use drugs and/ or alcohol. This effort can take many different forms. Public health initiatives to provide clean needles to heroin addicts to prevent spread of HIV, are one aspect of Harm Reduction. On an individual basis, an other example is counseling people who either do not want to be clean and sober or do not think they are capable of becoming clean and sober so that they can minimize the harm that would come to them. This can include helping users to set limits on their use in terms of limiting frequency or such safety measures as having a designated driver, having Narcan (Naloxone) available.
The whole concept of using professional resource to help people "abuse substances safely" is controversial. Frankly we at FamilyLight have reservations about it, which are probably more about prejudice than rational thought. We do support public health initiatives for harm reduction. We have no qualms about needle exchanges, for example. Teaching safe drug abuse is a hard concept for us, although thinking about it rationally, we are sure it saves lives.
Addiction (ASAM definition) has almost a self-contradictory relationship with Harm Reduction. One reason why one might choose a harm reduction approach is because a person believes he/ she cannot become clean and sober. But that sounds like a person who is addicted. If so, it seems unlikely that any genuine addict would be able to control use on any meaningful way. Some safety measures can be taught.
We are not sure we are being fair to Harm Reduction. We hope people who advocate for harm reduction will use this website to present their views.
- Website of Harm Reduction Coalition
- Return to Substance Abuse and Addiction
- See related article on Twelve Step Resources
- See related article on Twelve Step Alternatives
- See related article on The Destructive Battle over Recovery Methods
- See related article on History of the Differences over Addiction Treatment
- See related article on The Seven Challenges.
- See related article on Motivational Interviewing, Stages of Change, Transtheoretical Model
Last Updated October 31, 2014