Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Harm reduction
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Harm reduction

Harm reduction is a set of policy beliefs, essentially stating that people always have and always will perform activities, such as promiscuous sex or the abuse of drugs, that may cause them harm. Therefore, the best method of reducing the harm caused by risky activities should be adopted, rather than an ineffective blanket prohibition of the performance of harmful activities.

Thus, a harm reduction philosophy can, for example, be used to justify:

Table of contents
1 Drugs
2 Sex
3 Other forms of harm reduction initiative



Harm reductionists advocate the availability of a drug called methadone. Methadone does not cause any sense of euphoria in the user, but it does reduce or eliminate the cravings associated with heroin withdrawal. Therefore, harm reductionists claim, methadone should be made widely available to heroin addicts, who can use methadone on a regular basis, temporarily or permanently, while still leading a fulfilling and healthy lifestyle. Critics of methadone treatment claim that this is merely a substitution of one addiction for another, or that methadone treatment does not work.

Benefits of Methadone Treatment

These are benefits as stated by a Belgian Consensus Conference on Methadone Treatment, conducted by the Belgian Minister of Health. The following conclusions were sent to every Belgian doctor 1.

Syringe Exchange and Related Programs

The use of heroin and certain other illicit drugs involves hypodermic syringes. In some areas, these are available solely by prescription. Because of this, users of heroin and other drugs frequently share the syringes. As a result, one user's infection, such as HIV, quickly spreads through the reuse of syringes contaminated with infected blood. The principles of harm reduction necessitate that syringes should be made more easily available (i.e. without a prescription). Many harm reductionists also argue that users should be able to exchange dirty needles for clean ones at clinics set up for this purpose: so-called needle exchange programs. Critics claim that these measures will encourage addiction by making it safer to inject illicit drugs.

DanceSafe and Related Programs

DanceSafe is a national program in the United States, wherein volunteers situated at raves and similar dances test (for free) pills that participants purchased on the assumption they were Ecstasy. Similar programs have been proposed and, in some cases, implemented to test the purity of other drugs. Harm reductionists support these programs as informing drug users of the purity of their drugs. Thus decreasing the possibility of accidental overdoses and adverse drug reactions. Critics of these policies claim that such programs encourage drug use by making it seem safer.

Drunk Driving and Alcohol-Related Programs

A high amount of media coverage exists informing users of the dangers of driving drunk. Most alcohol users are now aware of these dangers and safe ride techniques like 'designated drivers' and free taxicab programs are reducing the number of drunk-driving accidents. Many cities have free-ride-home programs during holidays involving high alcohol abuse, and some of the more responsible bars and clubs will provide a visibly drunk patron with a free cab ride.


Safe Sex Programs

Many schools now provide safe sex education to teen and pre-teen students, who, regardless of what they are (or aren't) taught, have been shown to frequently engage in sexual activity. Given the premise that kids are going to have sex, a harm-reductionist approach supports sexual education which emphasizes the use of protective devices like condoms and dental dams to protect against unwanted pregnancy and the transmission of STDs. This runs contrary to the ideology of "abstinence-only" sex education, which holds that telling kids about sex necessarily encourages them to go out and get some.

Legalized prostitution

There are many advocates of the legalization of prostitution in jurisdictions where it is illegal. Proponents state that there are several benefits:

Other forms of harm reduction initiative

Other harm reduction programs to be expanded on: