Harm Reduction

If you know someone with an addiction, it’s likely that you wish the person would understand the dangers and choose to stop abusing substances right away. In short, you might think of addiction in strictly black-and-white terms, with addiction on one side and sobriety on the other. Our addiction experts, however, think of addiction in shades of grey. To us, addictions can sometimes be managed, and harms of addiction softened. At the end of this process, the person might choose to accept a fuller treatment for an addiction. In the interim, perhaps some of the more serious consequences of addiction can be avoided. It’s a concept known as harm reduction, and the addict you love might benefit from following some of those principles.
We consider the following principles central to harm reduction practice:
• We accept that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
• We understand drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledge that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.
• It ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
• Harm reduction recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
• Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.

*Fundamentals of Harm Reduction
While harm reduction can take many different forms, our harm-reduction program attempts to:
• Be pragmatic about drug abuse, realizing that some people may never choose to overcome their addictions
• Focus exclusively on removing and reducing harm
• Balance cost and benefits
Give immediate needs priority over long-term goals

Preventing a catastrophe from occurring is not the same as stating that an addiction is somehow inevitable and can’t be treated. If your loved one is looking for a specific method of taking drugs or alcohol that is somewhat safer than some other method, that doesn’t mean that the use is acceptable and will continue indefinitely. Consider this:
According to a study in the British Journal of Addiction, 59.7 percent of the people who were participating in a needle exchange harm reduction program went on to seek addiction treatment. These clients likely thought they were only getting clean needles. In reality, they may have gotten a subtle cue that allowed them to begin fighting their addictions.

View our harm reduction centre to learn more about what we offer.