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Harm Reduction

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What is Harm Reduction?

Harm-Reduction-BWebHarm reduction is an approach or strategy aimed at reducing the risks and harmful effects associated with substance use and addictive behaviours for the individual, community and society as a whole.

It is deemed a realistic, pragmatic, humane and successful approach to addressing substance use issues. Recognizing that abstinence may be neither a realistic or desirable goal for some users (especially in the short term), the use of substances is accepted and the main focus is placed on reducing harm while use continues.

What Lookout does

At Lookout harm reduction practices are an important element in being able to provide minimal-barrier housing to people living with addictions and facing other barriers to maintaining housing.  Information about safer drug use practices is provided to our clients, as well as safer drug use supplies, including safer injection and safer smoking supplies, and providing safe and discrete options for syringe disposal.

Our harm reduction practices extend beyond safer drug use and include safety planning with women who are involved with survival sex work, as well as providing blankets and other safety supplies to people who refuse to sleep indoors.

For more information on Lookout Society's harm reduction program, contact our harm reduction coordinator.

Harm Reduction reduces use

HarmReductionsupplies-200x301Harm reduction can increase the chance of abstinence. 
- Public Health nurses and counsellors are more likely to promote abstinence than dealers.
- Harm Reduction programs increase sense of personal power, which is needed to believe that life can be better without drugs.
– The illegal drug market would be smaller and drugs from this source would be less available. The reduced availability of drugs would increase abstinence.
– If we saw drugs as a health problem and not a criminal justice problem this would free up resources for treatment beds and prevention programs. Increased availability of immediate treatment and increased prevention efforts would increase abstinence.
– Harm reduction services can take away the “excitement” of the process of buying and using drugs which is attractive to some addicts.
– Increased contact with service providers leads to increased “normalization” or social integration which reduces drug use.
– Harm reduction programs provide links to abstinence based services.
– If funds were redirected from enforcement to the social determinates of health (poverty, abuse, violence, etc), society would target the issues which actually reduce drug consumption.

The fact that Harm Reduction programs increase abstinence is found in studies of needle exchange programs.  In one study of 720 Needle Exchange Program clients, more than 50 per cent requested help to enter treatment.

A June, 2013 study conducted by the Urban Health Research Initiative (UHRI) at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS found that innovative harm reduction practices are more effective in reducing drug techniques that federal government enforcement measures. The Drug Situation in Vancouver report compiled 15 years of data to reach its conclusions.