Tuesday, June 20, 2006

What is 'Harm Reduction'?

There is a lot of controversy and misinformation about what Yellow Brick Road outreach workers often refer to as "Harm Reduction". Some people think that harm reduction techniques, such as providing free condoms and safer drug use information, encourages (or enables) young people to have sex or use illegal drugs. This is simply not true. Yellow Brick Road utilizes harm reduction principles because we recognize that some people in our community will choose to have sex and/or use illegal drugs whether these behaviors are safe, ethical, lawful or NOT. We recognize that behavior such as illegal drug use represents a continuum of choices from abstinence (or non-use) on one end of the spectrum, to severe abuse or even serious illness and death on the other. Yellow Brick Road simply chooses to look realistically (and non-judgementally) at an individual's choices in an effort to provide tools, techniques, and resources to make such behavior more safe while we attempt to motivate healthier lifestyle changes. Yellow Brick Road believes that harm reduction principles offer effective & thoughtful (even economical) responses to health crisises in our community. In an effort to further demystify and explain harm reduction, the following information is excerpted from the Harm Reduction Coalition's 'Principles of Harm Reduction'. For more info about harm reduction contact HRC.

Principles of Harm Reduction

Harm reduction is a set of practical actions that reduce negative consequences of drug use, incorporating a spectrum of strategies from safer use, to managed use, to abstinence.
Harm reduction:
* Accepts, for better and for worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.

* Understands drug use as a complex, multi- faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.

* Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being--not necessarily cessation of all drug use--as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.

* Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.

* Ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.

*Affirms drugs users themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use, and seeks to empower users to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use.

* Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people's vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.

* Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.

No comments: