What is safer drug use?
Safer drug use, or harm reduction, and why it matters
In so far as gay men are more likely to have heard about 'safer sex' and 'safer drug use', 'harm reduction' is the term most used in drugs services and the harm reduction field. For all intents and proposes, the terms are interchangeable.
Harm reduction is about practical measures and policies that reduce the harm that people do to themselves or others from their drug use. The term emerged in the 1980s in the UK in response to cases of HIV among injecting drug users and the development of needle syringe exchange schemes.
The opposite can be said of primary prevention which tries to prevent people from using drugs in the first place or to stop them using once they’ve started. The focus of harm reduction is on ‘safer’ drug use rather than telling people "just say no." You may be old enough to remember Nancy Reagan who said (now famously) in 1986 "And when it comes to drugs and alcohol just say NO."
Harm reduction has its share of supporters and critics. On one hand: it promotes and/ or condones drug use. On the other: it's realistic, helps keep drug users safe(r), respecting individual choices and freedoms.
Harm reduction initiatives include needle exchange schemes, drug consumption rooms, drug testing at festivals and in clubs, and providing information on safer drug use.
What is harm reduction? | AIDS Action Europe Berlin | 22 Nov 2018 | 3m 34s
What is harm reduction? | Harm Reduction International
Basic harm reduction | Release
What is harm reduction? | Drugwise
Harm reduction | Drug Policy Alliance (US)
Harm reduction | Wikipedia
HIV roots of harm reduction | Drug and Alcohol Findings
The Guardian view on illegal drugs: the laws don’t work | 22 Feb 2021