What do you think about Harm Reduction approaches to Substance use?  

I know many people who believe that they are addicts, and are well aware of the damage that their alcohol and/or drug use is causing to themselves and those around them. However, for one reason or the other, they are either uninterested or unmotivated to completely abstain from drinking or using. For such people, approaches to harm reduction can be useful. Erickson (2018: 189) indicates that, “Harm reduction, also known as harm minimization, is a strategy for reducing harm to drug users and the people close to them, in cases where complete abstinence is not wanted or needed.”  

But the first question is whether or not the individual believes harm reduction can work for them. Added to the complication, not all therapists are in favor of harm reduction strategies to drug and alcohol use. Therefore, it is a good idea for the client to know their therapist’s position on this issue. The goal of this blog is to help clients who may want to consider harm reduction to gain some insights into associated options.  

According to Erickson (2018), there are four main types of harm reduction strategies: public education, medication maintenance, needle exchange, and teaching about controlled substance consumption. If you are someone struggling with substance use issues, do you consider harm reduction as a viable option to you? Why, or why not? Do you believe that you are instead someone who needs to totally abstain from substance use because if you use in small quantities you will not be able to control your consumption? If you are someone who is in favor of harm reduction, and believe you can be successful at using it, which aspects of it seem most appealing to you?  

In future blogs, I intend to explore some of those harm reduction strategies further. Meanwhile, it would be great for you to process the questions listed above.  

Written By: Peter S., Masters Level Intern


Erickson, C N. (2018). The Science of Addiction: From Neurobiology to Treatment. 2nd Ed. New York, NY: W.W. Norton. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-71207-0.  

One thought on “What do you think about Harm Reduction approaches to Substance use?  

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  1. I’ve been considering harm reduction this semester in my SA class. I think so often society moralizes this option and judges the person addicted as someone with a weak will or low morals. When in actuality, I believe if someone is using substances, I think it’s society’s moral obligation to protect and provide them the best care. A safe place to exist, clean needles and medical care when it is needed. Why do we judge the person who is addicted to illicit substances and tell them abstinence is the only option when we also willingly provide nicotine patches and gum without demanding abstinence? Safe, compassionate care is what we should provide to fellow humans. The goal=to keep people alive. If harm reduction can accomplish that, I am all for it. Thanks Peter!


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