Harm reduction is a proactive approach used in the medical field to promote safe use of drugs both legal and illegal. It is widely used in the United States, Canada, and other parts of the word. The approach was advanced by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1974, and therefore has been in practice for nearly four decades (Tyler, 2021). Harm reduction approach is implemented through different activities that include, needle or syringe exchange, sites for safe injection, extended use of life-saving medication (such as Methadone, Naloxone and Suboxone), drug courts, and adulterant screening. The approach is premeditated to address wide-ranging social and health concerns.
Harm reduction is reckoned as a genuine, logical, humanitarian and positive methodology to addressing the matter of drug use and abuse. The approach seeks to attend to millions of drug users who are left vulnerable by the abstinence-only approach due to their unmoderated high-risk deeds. Arguably, the abstinence-only approach may lead to the inadvertent infantilization of people who are dependent on it. The harm reduction approach seeks to reduce such hurtful effects of using drugs for the sake of the consumer’s well-being. Programs such as the safe sites offer a lawful and safe environment for drug addicts from the streets. The addicts have access to a well-ordered surrounding where they are provided with the necessary medical and mental health help. For instance, workers on the site are trained to check heroin for signs of contamination including fentanyl (Gaetz, 2016). The sites also offer users a crisis help desk and teaching on the usage of the different medication-assisted treatment. The use of naloxone converses the overindulgence of opioids by restoring breathing by hindering opioid receptors.
The benefits of the harm reduction approach are immense. However, the approach does not offer a long-term solution to the use of drugs or addiction that hurts people’s health. Besides, the methods applied are surrounded with controversy. People have been taught that the drug and substance abuse will ruin their life. Therefore, those who break away from this position need to be punished appropriately not to develop ways such as harm reduction to facilitate their illegal acts. Moreover, harm reduction services are not universally available. The services are mainly provided in the developed world while other developing areas have no adequate access (Tyler, 2021). As a consequence, a majority of the targeted users are not able to access the medication. In addition the harm reduction approach does not provide users with adequate support services that can lead to the users to entirely stop using drugs.
In general, the application of the harm reduction approach may not be the best solution to the use and abuse of drugs. However, it ought to be considered as a mitigating measure to the harmful effects arising from drug use and addiction (Gaetz, 2016). Such measures are common practices in the everyday living and are mostly applied subconsciously. They include common activities such as tying up a seatbelt in the car, using helmet on a bicycle or motorbike, washing hands (especially now during the COVID pandemic), safe sex practices including the use of condoms, and vehicle speed limits that must be observed on the road. All the above are harm reduction measures and just like the harm reduction approach, they seek to reduce harm to human beings.
Gaetz, S. (2016). Why is the harm reduction model so important? Web.
Tyler (2021). The benefits and drawbacks of harm reduction model. Web.