Harm Reduction: What’s in a Name?

Harm reduction has become one of the most contentious issues in drug use policy. The initial clarity and simplicity of the phrase "harm reduction" has evolved into an emotion-laden designation that has polarized groups with a common goal and is interfering with opportunities to engage high-risk populations and the implementation of a range of substance abuse services and supports. The purpose of this paper is to examine the concept of "harm reduction" and to work towards an approach that seeks to bridge the gap between opposing philosophical positions so as to maximize the benefits of programs for drug users and minimize the harm created through misperceptions of what constitutes "harm reduction". Policy makers and practitioners are urged to a dvance evidence-based programs, policies and interventions regardless of the label applied to them and to work towards implementing a comprehensive system of supports and services for dealing with substance abuse.

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