Harm reduction makes it as easy as possible for people who use substances to get help. Harm reduction is the practice of keeping people safe and minimizing death, disease, and injury from high risk behavior, especially substance use.

Harm reduction services are open to all people who use substances, at any stage of their substance use. Help is available when someone using substances wants to move in a new direction. This includes connecting to outreach, primary or other health care services, and accessing substance dependence treatment.

People who use substances are encouraged to participate in harm reduction activities. These services aim to involve people in their own health by keeping them connected to the health system. Harm reduction can empower people to improve the quality of their lives.


Some people express concerns about harm reduction. Some of the more common concerns include the following questions:

Q: Could harm reduction make it easier for people to use substances and stop them from quitting?

A: People who are dependent on substances may not want or be able to quit, or they may continue to relapse into substance use. Harm reduction reduces the risks of substance use including the spread of infections like hepatitis and HIV. Harm reduction creates opportunities for people to lead healthier lives.

Q: Could harm reduction activities encourage people to use substances?

A: Research shows that harm reduction activities do not encourage substance use. 

Q: Does harm reduction drain funding from treatment programs for substance dependence?

A: Treatment programs for substance dependence are part of harm reduction. Specific harm reduction activities are cost-effective, and prevent costly outcomes like hepatitis and HIV.

Q: Does harm reduction mean trying to legalize substances?

A: Legalization is not part of harm reduction. Harm reduction applies to both legal and illegal substance use. A high school organizing safe rides home after graduation because parents realize their teenagers may be drinking, is an example of harm reduction.

Harm Reduction