Addiction 101

Harm reduction

It's important to consider harm reduction as part of a broad approach to health and well-being. The goal of harm reduction approaches is to reduce harms for the person using substances, as well as to the community. These measures aim to save lives and reduce suffering without requiring that a person stop a behaviour or activity that may have risks, such as using substances or engaging in sex work. A harm reduction approach emphasizes a person's right to self-determination, allowing them to choose their own definition of recovery and wellness. Abstinence, in which a person stops using a substance completely, is one point on the harm reduction spectrum. People have different opinions about whether this practice is necessary to avoid the harms from substance use.

Harm reduction helps care providers adopt a less judgmental attitude when working with clients who continue to use substances. It also helps reduce the stigma associated with these behaviours (Portico, 2018). Remember that people who use drugs are not defined by their substance use. They are people who are worthy of dignity and autonomy.