What is Harm Reduction?

Harm Reduction is a philosophical approach to drug use. It recognizes the complexities of drug use and acknowledges both the benefits and risks of using drugs, while understanding that many of the harms are the result of out-dated laws, systems and institutions. 

It empowers individuals to live safer, healthier lives by prioritizing individual choice, autonomy and well-being, regardless of drug use, without judgment.

Harm reduction programs such as overdose prevention sites, providing drug using equipment, and naloxone distribution connect people who use drug to a range of health and social supports.

It encompasses a range of practical strategies and policies that reduces individuals’ risks, public drug consumption, and health systems burdens and costs.

In March 2024, for the first time ever, a resolution at the Commissions on Narcotic Drugs included the term “harm reduction” – a significant shift at the international level, indicating a growing understanding of this philosophical approach.

Priorities for Action

  • Provincial governments must stop obstructing overdose and supervised consumption sites. 
  • Scale-up supervised inhalation sites.
  • Scale-up harm reduction services in prisons. 
  • Support in remote and rural settings.
  • Provision of regulated drug alternatives to the unregulated illicit drug supply.
  • Expand naloxone distribution and drug checking. 

Further Reading