Ask an Expert: What Is Harm Reduction?

By Tessie Castillo 02/10/15
Today's question is on what harm reduction is and how to find it.

I am seeking some sort of recovery (I've done some meth, coke and occasionally smack - different highs, I know) and am just starting to explore what's available. I heard about something called Harm Reduction. What can you tell me about this and how might it apply to me. I don't need needle exchange but what I get from google is it has other elements.  What if any part of it might help me. -- Lloyd


Tessie Castillo: Harm reduction programs offer many services in addition to needle exchange programs. Substance use specialists in harm reduction can work with you to help you manage, reduce or stop using drugs or alcohol, or to make safer health choices while you are still using. For example, harm reductionists teach their clients how to prevent or respond to drug overdose from opiates, like heroin, or how to avoid over-amping on stimulants such as methamphetamine or cocaine. They also provide education on how to prevent transmission of blood borne diseases such as hepatitis C or HIV whether drugs are injected, snorted, smoked. (For example through burnt or blistered lips from a hot pipe). 

Harm reductionists are trained to be nonjudgmental about drug and alcohol use and can work with you to create realistic goals based on where you are at in your drug use and where you want to be. You can google for specialists in your area.  



Tessie Castillo is the Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, a leading public health and drug policy reform organization in the Southern United States. She is an expert on harm reduction, overdose prevention and response, naloxone, the drug war, and policy reform.   Full Bio.

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