FINDINGS: Harm reduction - what is it for ?

July 7, 2016

Findings publish a selection of hot topics and important issues which sometimes generate heated debate over the facts or their interpretation. Below and following the link are some intriguing  points regarding harm.


The answer to the title question seems self-evident – to reduce harm. But what counts as harm, and whose harm? Is intoxication a harm, or a benefit? If people are offended by drug use, is that a harm we need to place in the balance? What if magnifying the user’s harm from drug use deters others from turning to drugs – good or bad?

According to the UK Harm Reduction Alliance, harms may take the form of health, social or economic impacts, and may affect individuals, communities, or whole societies – a formulation which permits opposing stances in the name of harm reduction, from prioritising the health of drug users, to sacrificing this to promote other social objectives and reduce the financial burden on the state. Ambiguity of objectives within harm reduction is nested within a policy frame which may see any form of harm reduction – if acceptable at all – as a gateway to the overarching goal of stopping illegal drug use, an activity seen in and of itself as simply wrong, and/or one whose harms are so extreme that ‘no use’ is the only justifiable strategic objective.

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