chapter  27
10 Pages

Harm reduction approach

WithG. Hussein Rassool

There is now a broad consensus of opinion that recognises that the misuse of psychoactive substances is, and will continue to be a part of society. Many individuals are unable or lack the readiness to change to be drug free but nonetheless could benefit from some form of interventions. Harm reduction means trying to reduce the harm that people do to themselves, or other people, from their substance use. It can be contrasted with primary prevention which tries to stop people using drugs in the first place or to stop using if they have already started. Harm reduction focuses on ‘safer’ drug use and ‘safer’ sex in the prevention of overdose or other risks and the transmission of blood-borne infections. This snowball effect can continue, eventually to the point of abstinence. The thinking of the ‘unthinkable’ approach has brought a sea change in the policy and strategy in tackling alcohol and drug misuse. Harm reduction can work alongside approaches that aim for reductions in drug, alcohol and tobacco consumption. An important aspect of harm reduction is its focus on public health, which has improved co-operation between the health, social, criminal justice system and law enforcement agencies.