Principles of Harm Reduction

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas that are aimed at reducing the negative consequences associated with drug use and higher-risk sexual behavior.

Principles of Harm Reduction:

  • Accept that drug use and sexual activity are parts of our world.

  • Minimize the potentially harmful effects of drug use and sexual activity rather than simply ignore or condemn them.

  • Understand that drug use and sexual behaviors are complex and that some ways of using drugs and having sex are safer than others.

  • Recognize that abstinence-based programs don’t work for everyone. Meet clients where they are at and let them set their own goals.

  • Offer services and resources in a non-judgmental way to people who use drugs and engage in higher-risk sexual behavior.

  • Empower and affirm the person who is seeking support. Treat them as a person who happens to use drugs and/or engage in higher-risk sexual behavior. These behaviors are not their whole identity.

  • Recognize the impacts of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination, and other social inequalities. These factors can make people vulnerable to drug/sex-related harm and also affect their capacity to deal with that harm. Everyone’s story is different.

  • Don’t attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with lawful and unlawful drug use and/or higher-risk sexual activity. Tell them you care and want to see them safe and happy.