What is harm reduction?
Harm reduction can be defined as a set of practical strategies with the goal of meeting people where they are at, to help them to reduce harm associated with engaging in risk taking behaviour. (Harm Reduction Coalition, United States, 2000) (Definition supported by Canadian AIDS Society, 2000)
What are the basic principles of harm reduction?
Harm reduction philosophy considers risk taking behaviour as a natural part of our world and suggests that our work should be focused on minimizing the harmful effects of these behaviours, rather than focusing on the cessation of the behaviour.
Harm reduction philosophy requires the involvement of those individuals who are the intended recipients of programs and services in the creation of these same services and programs and/or the delivery of programs and services that are designed to serve them. These programs and services must be offered in a non- judgmental and non-coercive manner.
Harm reduction philosophy recognizes that poverty, social class, racism, homophobia, social isolation, past trauma, and other social inequities have an impact on people’s vulnerability to, and capacity for, effectively dealing with risk taking behaviour. (Information provided by the Canadian AIDS Society)
How can I practice harm reduction?
Practice safer injecting:
- Use a new needle and new supplies (water, cooker, filter, etc.) every time you inject.
- Never share needles or supplies with anyone else.
Practice universal precautions.
Practice safer inhalation:
- Everyone should have their own pipe, or at the very least their own mouthpiece
- Use several screens instead of brillo
- Clean your pipe regularly
- Use chapstick
“Comprehensive, flexible, easy to access: NSPs [Harm Reduction Programs] cannot prevent HIV and other diseases on their own so they need to provide a comprehensive range of well-coordinated and flexible services aimed at improving the health and well-being of injection drug users. Their services are often provided at multiple locations with varied hours of operation, making sterile injecting equipment and other services easy to access.” – World Health Organization
Where can I get more information?
The Canadian Drug Policy Coalition wrote: Opioid Overdose Prevention and Response in Canada
CATIE Webinar: New recommendations for the delivery of harm reduction programming in Canada (November 2013)
A great link on drug information is: http://www.drugfacts.ca/other_pages/drug_info.html
For information about the specifics of the Turning Point Harm Reduction program please go here.