Harm Reduction

"Harm Reduction


May 1995

The illegal or harmful use of psychoactive drugs is a major threat to all world communities and to future generations.  Drug Watch International is a volunteer drug prevention network of experts from a wide range of professions whose mission is to help assure a healthier and safer world through drug prevention.

Lie:  "Harm Reduction" is the "new" 90's solution to the global drug problem.

Truth:  "Harm Reduction" is a rehash of the failed "responsible use" drug message of the 1960's and 1970's.  Today's hard-core addicts are primarily a product of the permissive drug philosophy of that period.  Youth drug use in the U.S. declined over 50% when public policy strongly supported prevention of drug use.  In Sweden, "Harm Reduction" drug policies of the 1960's were terminated after a few years, following a drastic increase in the number of addicts.  Drug abuse declined after greater emphasis was placed on legislation, enforcement and customs.

Lie:   "Harm Reduction" as a drug policy is specific and has clear goals.     

Truth:  "Harm Reduction" is not clearly defined and has no clear goals.  Everything from full legalization to teaching children how to smoke marijuana "responsibly" are embraced.  A common theme is to make drug use acceptable, more convenient, and "safer."

Lie:   Since psychotropic and addictive drugs will always be used, reducing drug related harm is more realistic than trying to prevent or ban drug use.

Truth:  "Harm Reduction" abandons attempts to free current drug users and encourages future generations to try drugs.  It asserts that drug use is natural and necessary.  Rather than preventing harm and drug use, "Harm Reduction" feebly attempts to reduce the misery level for addicts.  "Harm Reduction" forsakes a portion of the population, often the poor and minorities, to lifetime abuse of drugs.

Lie:  "Harm Reduction" is a medically and scientifically proven public health approach to drugs that has been successful in nations that have used it.

Truth:  "Harm Reduction" is a dangerous experiment with human life that has exacted a tragic toll in every area of the globe that it has been applied.  The policy of "Harm Reduction" in Britain, the Netherlands, and Switzerland are colossal failures that are being halted because of increased harm.

Lie:  "Harm Reduction" is a more humane way to deal with addiction.

Truth:  "Harm Reduction" enables drug addicts to continue their addiction and actually increases risk of harm to users and non-users.  "Harm Reduction" can prolong drug use and increase frequency of use, inducing drug related health harm.  "Harm Reduction" encourages hopelessness, with its basic premise that we must accept the enslavement of some of the population to drugs.

Lie:  Drug related harm would decrease if drug laws and law enforcement were removed.

Truth:  Drug laws and law enforcement reduce and prevent drug harm.  Over 70% of students polled in the U.S. stated that fear of getting in trouble with the law constituted a major reason for not using drugs.  Many addicts attribute seeking treatment and becoming drug-free to law enforcement and judicial pressure.  Weakening or abolishing drug laws will bring about greater harm induction through increased use. 

Lie: "Harm Reduction" has nothing to do with drug legalization.

Truth:  The well organized and financed international drug legalization movement has made "Harm Reduction" one of  it's chief strategies to liberalize drug policies and legalize drugs.  International "Harm Reduction" conferences are sponsored and funded by the world's top drug legalization groups.  One unsuspecting participant labeled this event "a legalizer's ball."  For drug use advocates, the term "harm reduction" is a clever public relations ploy for "drug legalization."


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Prevention and the elimination of harm, not "Harm Reduction," have the best potential for effectively addressing the drug problem.  "Harm Reduction" is a theory promoted by pro-drug advocates that holds that society must learn to accept levels of use of psychoactive or addictive drugs by adults and youth and teach them the "responsible use" of these drugs to reduce the harm.  Drug Watch International opposes this theory of "harm reduction" and believes that no level of use of marijuana, cocaine, and other harmful and illicit substances is acceptable.


The term "Harm Reduction" was "coined" in Great Britain by a group of individuals attempting to make the use of illicit drugs acceptable to society.  The basic premise is that the personal use of illicit drugs should be legal, and can be made manageable and less harmful to the user.  The goal of "Harm Reduction" according to proponents, is to decrease the negative consequences of drug use, rather than to decrease the prevalence of drug use.  Abstinence, they say, may neither be a realistic nor desired goal.  Some have utilized this theory as a method attempting to "reduce" the spread of hepatitis among IV drug users.  The onset of HIV infection has given major impetus to this flawed concept.  The "Harm Reduction" concept has been incorporated into some treatment programs which allow for continued drug use rather than working towards no drug use.  It has also made inroads into health programs and school curricula in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada.


"Harm Reduction" interpretations range from the legalization of some drugs, to decriminalization, to the legalization of all drugs.  The fallacy of "Harm Reduction" is that dangerous and addictive drugs can safely be used if "properly" managed by the user or regulated by government.

"Harm Reduction" has no place in drug prevention.  "Harm Reduction" includes educational strategies used to teach "responsible use" of drugs and convey that drug use is tacitly, if not openly, acceptable regardless of the harmful effects of drugs.

The "responsible use" or "harm reduction" approach to drug use was attempted in the U.S. in the 1970's.  The result was record levels of drug use by young people, many of whom became the middle-aged addicts of today.

"Harm Reduction" proponents falsely claim that education and prevention have failed.  Prevention (no first drug use) programs, policies, and strategies have caused a positive change in public attitudes about illicit drugs and a significant decline in drug use, especially by youth.  A social context in which drug use is not accepted is essential in decreasing drug use.

"Harm Reduction" ignores the proven physiological effects of drug use.  "Harm Reduction" is counterproductive to individuals with addictive behavior.  The most successful treatment programs are abstinence-based.

"Harm Reduction" policies in Europe resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of drug users in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and other countries.  As a result, a number of European countries returned to a restrictive drug policy when it became clear that lenient drug laws had a negative effect on society.

"Harm Reduction" proponents consider that legalizing drugs would be the ultimate "harm reduction" for the drug user.  For them, the right to the personal use of psychoactive and addictive drugs supersedes what is beneficial and healthy for the rest of society.