Harm Reduction 101

Moving from stigma to support & isolation to liberation

What is Harm Reduction?

“Harm reduction is a set of ideas and interventions that seek to reduce the harms associated with both drug use and ineffective, racialize drug policies.

Harm reduction stands in stark contrast to a punitive approach to problematic drug use—it is based on acknowledging the dignity and humanity of people who use drugs and bringing them into a community of care in order to minimize negative consequences and promote optimal health and social inclusion.”

Drug Policy Alliance

Harm reduction programs connect people who use drugs to supplies (e.g., new syringes, fentanyl test strips, and naloxone) that help prevent overdose deaths and the spread of infections. They also connect people to healthcare, medication for opioid use disorder (MOUD), HIV and Hepatitis C testing, and a community space free from judgment and stigma.
While abstinence-only approaches to drug use focus on the cessation of all drug use, harm reduction prioritizes community wellbeing and quality-of-life. This may include abstinence for some people, based on what works best for them. But, because drug use is also about so much more than the substance itself, policies and programs to address drug use also have to be about much more than the drug in question. That’s where harm reduction comes in!

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Harm Reduction Works

Fundamentally, harm reduction is about bodily autonomy and unconditional support for people who use drugs. In New Jersey and beyond, the harm reduction approach to drug use is rooted in liberation movements for racial, reproductive, and health justice. And this liberatory approach works!Decades of research show that harm reduction increases public health and wellbeing, without increasing drug use, violence, or crime. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, people with access to a harm reduction program that includes new, sterile syringes are:

Harm Reduction Is Supported By . . .

World Health Organization
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
American Medical Association
NJ Department of Health


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Harm reduction is essential. A harm reduction approach to drug use is the best strategy we have to end the overdose crisis, reduce risks associated with drug use, and affirm the dignity and bodily autonomy of every New Jerseyan.


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