Harm Reduction Principles

Harm reduction is set of policies, programs and initiatives that attempt to reduce the adverse health, psychosocial-spiritual and economic consequences of drug use on people who use illicit drugs, their families and the community. The basic principles of harm reduction are:

Rights-based
• Respects basic human dignity and rights of people who use drugs
• Acknowledges the individual drug user’s right to self determination
• Supports informed decision making in the context of active drug use

Pragmatic
• Recognizes that since elimination of drug use may not be possible or desirable, people must be encouraged to start "where they're at" in order to protect themselves and their partners

Focus on Harms
• Acknowledges that the fact or extent of an individual’s drug use is secondary to the harms from drug use
• Prioritizes a decrease in the negative consequences of drug use to the user and others, rather than a decrease in drug use itself
• Challenges harmful social policies and their consequences, including misrepresentation and stigmatization of drug-users

Balance
• Balances costs and benefits for individuals and communities, while recognizing that respect for drug users is conducive to public health and public order

Drug User Involvement
• Recognizes that drug users are the best source of information about their own drug use, and must be empowered to join with service providers to determine the best interventions to reduce harm from drug use