Harm reduction is a public health strategy that was developed to assist individuals with substance abuse problems for whom abstinence from their drug of choice was note feasible. These strategy approaches have been shown effective in reducing morbidity and mortality in this population. To date, harm reduction-based programs have had positive impacts on lowering alcohol use, reducing incidence of teen pregnancy and decreasing the overall numbers of sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.
In general, harm reduction can be described as a strategy directed toward individuals or groups with the aim of reducing the harms associated with certain behaviors deemed unsafe and/or unhealthy. When applied to substance abuse, hard reduction philosophy asserts that a continuing level of overall drug use (both licit and illicit make this list) in society is inevitable and in turn defines objectives necessary to lower the total number of adverse outcomes and consequences of drug use. This method instead measures the changes in health, social, and economic outcomes versus solely focusing on the actual consumption of drugs or alcohol. In other words, establish environments that aim at educating individuals engaging in risky behaviors and providing overall use and disease prevention rather than exclusively focusing on the total elimination of drug use itself.
Harm reduction incorporates a variety of strategies to reduce the negative impacts of drug use, including: safe use, managed use, and abstinence. Harm reduction demands that interventions and policies are designed to meet specific individual and community needs. There is no universal definition of, or formula for implementing these strategies. Most are done on a state-by-state and community-by-community basis as need arises.