A Historical Prospective of Harm Reduction


Harm reduction has a complicated history due to the policy and the myths that circulate about harm reduction resulting from personal beliefs2.  Ideas and interventions aimed at reducing the risk and negative consequences are the roots of harm reduction. Encompassing individuals with a community of care aims to promote prime health and social opportunities while reducing negative consequences. The negative social and physical consequences associated with human behavior can be influenced by public health policy to bring about positive change.


Things to Know:

  • The forces in advancing harm reduction are two fold

    • Activists

    • Research2

  • The United States historically looked at drugs and alcohol from a moralistic perspective

    • What does this mean?

      •  As a culture, there remains a belief that people who use drugs are solely at fault for their use due to some personal lack of morals

      • We are trying as a society with the support of activism and research to move to a place where we understand that there are Biological, Sociological, Psychological, and Cultural issues that impact addiction2

    • We have to be aware of the stigma and beliefs we bring to the table when we try to help others2

    • By 1993 we had scientific evidence that backed the use of syringe services programs, however, the US did not widely implement these programs and some programs where prosecuted, this led to a preventable loss of life1

  1. Drucker, E., & Crofts, N. (2017). Are we anywhere near there yet? The state of harm reduction in North America in 2017. Harm Reduction Journal, 14(55), 2-4. doi:10.1186/s12954-017-0155-0
  2. Jarlais, D. C. D. (2017). Harm reduction in the USA: The research perspective and an archive to David Purchase. Harm Reduction Journal, 14(51), 1-7. doi:10.1186/s12954-017-0178-6