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Topic 2 – The 6 Principles of Harm Reduction

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The 6 Principles of Harm Reduction

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  • Harm reduction understands that the non-medical use of psychoactive or mood altering substances is a near-universal human cultural phenomenon.
  • It recognizes that, along with risks, there are also benefits to substance use, for both the user and society, that need to be acknowledged and taken into account.
  • Harm reduction respects the basic human dignity and rights of people who use substances
  • It accepts as fact the substance user’s decision to use drugs without any judgment, either positive or negative.
  • The primary focus is on the harms associated with drug use and not on the fact or extent of an individual’s drug use.
  • The priority is decreasing the negative consequences of drug use to the user and others. The priority is not necessarily decreasing drug use itself.
  • Harm reduction recognizes that people with problematic substance use benefit from a variety of different approaches.
  • It also recognizes there is no single prevention or treatment approach that works reliably for everyone.
  • Harm reduction establishes a hierarchy of goals or achievable steps that have as its aim a fuller, healthier life for problematic substance users and a safer, healthier community.
  • It starts with where the person is at in their drug use. The immediate focus is on the most pressing needs.
  • The active and voluntary participation of problematic substance users is fundamental to harm reduction.
  • Problematic substance users are seen as the best source of information about their own use, and are empowered to join with service providers to determine the best interventions to reduce harm from drug use.

For some examples of Harm Reduction in BC please read the first section, titled ‘What is Harm Reduction’, on the Health Link BC website:

Understanding Harm Reduction: Substance Use


View the following video on Insite, North America’s first safe injection site:

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