WHAT IS HARM REDUCTION?
Harm reduction is a range of treatments and techniques, which means not judging a person for using substances, but to support them to use as safely as possible.
Why harm reduction?
Because not everyone is ready for abstinence-based treatment (i.e. quitting using substances completely) harm reduction is done through education, advice, prescribing of substitute medications and access to medical assessments and treatments. The focus is on reducing the harms from substance use rather than on preventing substance use itself. They are often low cost, easy to facilitate and impact on both the health of an individual and on the wider community.
Harm reduction recognises that people should have the freedom to make choices around their substance use. A crucial part of harm reduction is that it is non-judgemental, and tries to reduce the stigmatisation of substance users.
Types of intervention
- Safer injecting services: these services provide the user with new injecting equipment, as well as somewhere to safely dispose of used equipment. Find out more about safer injecting here.
- Education and advice: this may be done in many ways such as education sessions in schools, talks to community groups or 1:1 advice at the treatment service. Gaining advice and information does not have to wait until you have started to experiment with drugs and alcohol – advice can be sought on safer experimentation again reducing the risk to the individual. Education and advice supports you in making the right choice for you as an individual.
- Substitute Prescribing: when you stop using certain substances (such as heroin) you may experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms or cravings. Substitute medications (such as Methadone and Buprenorphine) are prescribed by appropriately qualified medical professionals and help to reduce withdrawals and cravings and help to support you in reducing or stopping your substance use.