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Street Works Street WorksHarm reduction is a practical approach to drug use. It recognizes that quitting drugs may not be realistic or desirable for everyone. It is:
• community-based
• user-driven
• non-judgmental
• broad-based in that it addresses systems, which isolate, alienate and marginalize people

It meets drug users “where they are at” and responds to their health concerns. Harm reduction aims to decrease drug-related harm as outlined by drug users themselves. It also recognizes drug users as part of a larger community. Protecting and improving the health of the community as a whole therefore requires protecting and improving the health of drug users. Drug users must be integrated into the community rather than isolated from it.

The harm reduction approach recognizes that two different types of problems result from illegal drugs. One set of problems results from the negative effects of the drug on an individual’s health, another from society’s efforts to eliminate drugs. These two are often confused. Much of the harm that occurs is blamed on drugs themselves, while the negative consequences of efforts to eliminate them are not recognized. Harm reduction isn’t solely about change in individual behavior, but about societal change. It challenges us to rethink how we see drugs and recognize that many of the harms associated with drug use are caused by prejudice and a “war on drugs” approach to drug policies.

Harm reduction includes initiatives such as designated drivers, needle exchange programs, safe grads, safer sex campaigns, safe injection facilities, methadone maintenance, prescription heroin or morphine, and others. It also addresses the broad needs of drug users, including issues of physical and mental health, the justice system, income support, food security, and homelessness.
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