In this section we will be exploring harm reduction strategies that students can use on an everyday basis to decrease negative consequences.
Harm reduction is a form of secondary prevention. Primary prevention intends to prevent high-risk behaviors and disease, whereas secondary prevention focuses on early identification, decreasing the harms and the negative impacts, as well as slowing down the progression.
In this section, you're going to be able to define what harm reduction is, understand the main principles, and create a harm reduction plan.
Harm reduction is an umbrella term for policies and practices that are focused on reducing problematic effects of alcohol and other drug use. It can take place on the individual, community, or societal level.
Watch the video or read the text below to learn about the principles of harm reduction.Principles of Harm Reduction Video Transcript
Let’s bust some myths. Watch the video or read the table below to learn about some common misconceptions about harm reduction and the facts about what harm reduction really is.
|Harm-reduction is opposed to abstinence and therefore conflicts with traditional substance abuse treatment.||Harm-reduction supports all options for safer and/or managed use, including abstinence. It supports people where they are, and with what their individual goals are.|
|Harm reduction encourages drug use.||Harm reduction is neither for nor against drug use. It focuses on supporting efforts to reduce the harms created by drug use that affect the individual, their families, and communities.|
|Harm reduction takes money away from other programs.||In Canada, the National Anti-Drug Strategy allocates the majority of the funds to enforcing current drug laws. Only 17% of those funds go towards any type of treatment and a fraction—less than 2%—goes towards harm reduction programs or services, despite the evidence that they work.|
|Making condoms, safer drug use equipment, and harm reduction information pamphlets available will undermine policies that state that students cannot have sex or use drugs on the premises.||Making harm reduction equipment and information available shows that students’ health and well-being are valued and creates opportunities to have open and honest conversations about varying levels of risks associated with those practices. There is no evidence that making these tools available leads to an increase in the level of these activities on or off the premises.|
|If a person doesn't abstain from all substances, use will lead to renewed problems and possibly addiction.||Different people have different relationships with different drugs. For some, the use of any substance can trigger intense drug use, while others find it possible to use some substances in moderation.|
|Abstinence-based models are the only way people will get well.||Abstinence-only models are useful for some but not all individuals. Abstinence cannot always be reached right away. Not every person can stop or wants to stop using. Having abstinence as the only determinant of success can set people up for ongoing failure, increasing a sufferer’s sense of hopelessness and helplessness. Harm-reduction provides opportunities for small successes to lead to greater successes as well as practical and immediate solutions that can be used to decrease short and long-term consequences.|
A harm reduction plan is a way to decrease the negative side effects of substance use. There are four main ways that the harms of substance use can be mitigated:
Watch the video or read the text below for an example of how to create a harm reduction plan.Creating a Harm Reduction Plan Video Transcript
Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world, but it can cause some negative side effects, such as being irritable, jittery, and unable to focus, as well as developing ‘gut-rot’, and struggling to sleep at night. If you are a heavy consumer of caffeine, you may know that if you wake up tomorrow and do not have any caffeine, you will have a very nasty headache and feel exhausted.
If you were experiencing side effects from caffeine that impacted your life, here are some ways you could try to decrease these side effects while continuing to use caffeine:
Complete this activity to see how well you know the definition and principles of harm reduction. Opens a new window