Harm Reduction

Harm Reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of all people who use drugs.

Harm Reduction is a multi-faceted concept that incorporates a spectrum of strategies, including but not limited to:

  • Safer Substance Use (via Syringe Exchange and Other Services)
  • Managed Substance Use
  • Abstinence
  • Meeting Substance Users “Where They’re At”
  • Free and Low-Cost Testing Options (HIV and Hepatitis C)

The Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction (HACHR) is dedicated to Harm Reduction in the Humboldt County community, and in accordance with our partners at the HRC, our organization considers the following principles central to Harm Reduction practices in our community.

  • Accepts, for better and or 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.

Thank you to our partners at the Harm Reduction Coalition for this overview of Harm Reduction.

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