Harm Reduction: An Approach that is Damaging to Drug Users

IBH supports the concept of harm reduction when the term means reducing the use of the illegal drugs that cause harm including mental illness and physical disease as well as death, crime, decreases in productivity and family suffering. 

However, in a bizarre and purposefully deceptive twist of rhetoric, the term Harm Reduction has been hijacked in the drug policy world by a heterogeneous group of advocates who think that the only harm worth talking about in drug abuse policy is the "harm" caused by anti-drug efforts such as the arrest and imprisonment of the distributors of illegal drugs. Advocates of Harm Reduction seek to reduce the pain that restrictive drug policies cause to individuals who use illegal drugs. Proponents of Harm Reduction do not aim to reduce drug use. Instead they offer seemingly reasonable modifications to current drug policy that are designed to reduce the harm to illegal drug users. 

Harm Reduction proposals range from legalizing drugs (so sellers would not face legal "harm") to providing clean needles to intravenous drug users. Providing and antidote to first responders to reverse opiate overdoses is another harm reduction strategy. If it were linked to mandatory treatment to assist people who experience overdoses get the help they need this would be a great policy. Unfortunately that is not how it is now done. The problem with these proposals is that they normalize illegal drug use and inevitably lead to more use of drugs which, just as inevitably, lead to more drug-caused harm. Real, successful harm reduction is not achieved by making illegal drug use easier, cheaper or safer; it is achieved by rejecting illegal drug use and calling it unwise, unhealthy and unacceptable. It is easy to identify Harm Reduction initiatives because they all permit, if not encourage, the use of the drugs that are now illegal. 

Today's Harm Reduction movement is the reincarnation of the discredited Responsible Drug Use movement of the 1970s that resulted in the greatest use of illegal drugs in our nation's history. For the past decade, Harm Reduction programs and initiatives have been lavishly funded by organizations and widely supported by many people who are well-meaning but often poorly informed

Back to Top ↑