Addiction Research Unit
Department of Psychology/University at Buffalo

Harm-Reduction Outreach Program

Policy Advisory
Outreach Program
Addiction Technology Transfer Initiative

The Harm-Reduction Outreach Program involves the development, application, and assessment of strategies for reducing the harm from licit and illicit psychoactive drug use.


Many of the adverse medical consequences of illicit drug use result not from the drug itself but from the practices and policies involving the drug use. This is also true for the societal cost of addiction including most of the criminal activity associated with drug procurement. The harm reduction approach to managing addiction acknowledges that for many addicts it is simply unrealistic to expect them to remain drug free. Instead, this orientation tries to minimize the harm to the individual and to society caused by the person's addiction.

Harm-reduction programs differ in their orientations regarding the desirability of drug abstinence. Some programs assert that drug abstinence is the ultimate goal, albeit not very likely for many addicts. Other harm-reduction programs do not view drug abstinence as a goal for the addict, but rather, consider the individual a 'career addict.' Both orientations agree that it is important to offer their services regardless of the addict's inclination to become drug free and to not exploit the addict's participation in the harm-reduction program to manipulate them into accepting unwanted drug rehabilitation treatment. For example, needle-exchange programs are conducted quietly, often discretely, with information usually available about local treatment resources but without moralistically preaching about the 'evils' of addiction.


©2004 Addiction Research Unit/University at Buffalo

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