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What is Harm Reduction?

​The term Harm Reduction refers to policies, programs, and practices that aim to reduce the harms and death associated with drug use. Harm Reduction approaches are based on evidence and science, are rooted in compassion and justice, and seek to reduce stigma and discrimination.  

  • Harm Reduction uses non-judgmental, strength-based services that provide skills, knowledge, resources, and supports for people involved in high-risk behaviours to live safer and healthier lives. 
  • Harm Reduction is one component in a range of healthcare services and is implemented most effectively alongside as well as within other approaches including Prevention, Early Intervention, Treatment, and Rehabilitation.
  • Harm Reduction services enable people who are often isolated by their addiction to be accepted "where they are at" and provided non-judgmental services appropriate to their state of readiness.
  • Harm reduction includes stopping drug use.
  • Harm Reduction services will frequently act as an entry point to services, providing an individual with access to further supports that they may not have otherwise connected with.
  • Harm Reduction is highly effective in reaching vulnerable and marginalized populations, and reaching community members who may not access traditional healthcare systems. Data on the provincial naloxone program supports the effectiveness of Harm Reduction agencies in improving access to care for these populations. 

Although Harm Reduction agencies make up only 0.7% (8 of 1,095) of the provincial sites that are registered to distribute naloxone kits, they have collectively distributed 35% of the naloxone kits in Alberta since January 2016.