​By Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Nikki Sullivan, of the Cape Breton​ ​Post, reported on harm reduction. She described this as something possibly confusing for those were not more familiar with the philosophy, methodology, and the practice. It was a way to help people with substance abuse disorders. Part of it can include absence. Another part of it can include the reduction of the potential harm to people who happen to use substances, or drugs more colloquially.

The main aim is to reduce the harms associated over the long term with substance misuse, or abuse. Where the focus is the individual user, the problems boil down to the individual but incorporate community and societal consequences.

So, the reduction in overall harm of the individual can boil down to an overall reduction in harm to the community and society. There are many strategies. There is a tremendous amount of empirical support for this, according to the experts, and the Canadian Medical Association has intervened in the past to support harm reduction. The principles include, with a focus on the individual, the dignity of the individual.

The dignity and respect for their own choices plus helping with the reduction of harm. It is a realistic view incorporated into society, with the idea that drugs cannot be eliminated but their negative effects can be reduced.

There could be things like safe needle distribution sites and consumption sites, as well as therapy and treatment, and Naloxone programs that you can take home. Naloxone can help prevent overdoses of particular substances, which is important in the current context of the opioid overdose “epidemic” in British Columbia, Ontario, and elsewhere in the country.

Harm Reduction is a non-judgmental approach and less punitive one, too, to the traditional hard drug enforcement model. The traditional approach is mostly punitive, which, according to the evidence and experts, has contributed to an increase in the amount of drug use and abuse and, therefore, cost of the individual to the community and society.

Take, for example, the introduction of harm reduction to improve the lives of users. It has been proven to reduce the case of hepatitis C, HIV, and the levels of a drug overdose. In the words, it is effective in important domains for the health of citizens who have used drugs or substances. This is in stark contrast to the punitive approach. If you go punitive, the drug use and abuse go up; if you use harm reduction, the drug use goes down and abuse goes down.