Harm Reduction

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

Our Commitment to Reducing Harm and Improving Health

The Drug Policy Alliance advocates for:

  • Accurate, fact-based drug education
  • Drug-related illness and injury prevention
  • Overdose death prevention
  • Effective, evidence-based drug treatment for problematic use
  • Repairing the harms of racialized drug policies, which are focused on enforcement and incarceration rather than public health 

We believe that every solution with the potential to promote the health and well-being of people who use drugs and to mitigate drug-related harm should be considered. We continue to seek innovative approaches to drug use, drug treatment, and drug policy based on science and research.

Key Harm Reduction Issues

Discrimination Against Drug Users
DPA is working to end discrimination against people who use drugs by reducing the stigma associated with both recreational and problematic drug use and advocating for compassionate, judgment-free approaches to addiction.

Drug Overdose
Accidental drug overdose is currently the leading cause of death in the United States for those under 50. Most of these deaths are preventable. We are leading the national effort to reduce drug overdose deaths by promoting sensible solutions and better policy at the state and federal level.

Naloxone is an inexpensive, FDA-approved generic drug that works to reverse an opioid overdose without any potential for abuse. Far too many people are still unable to access naloxone. We’re working to save lives by ensuring that more people are equipped with naloxone and are able to help in overdose emergencies.

Good Samaritan Laws
People using illegal drugs often fear arrest if they call 911 when they witness an overdose. The best way to encourage them to seek medical help is to provide them immunity for drug law violations, an approach often referred to as Good Samaritan. We push for the broadest protections possible to ensure people do not hesitate to get live-saving help for someone who has overdosed. 

Supervised Consumption Services
Supervised consumption services (SCS), also called overdose prevention centers and supervised injection facilities (SIFs), are legally sanctioned facilities designed to reduce the health and public order issues often associated with public drug consumption by allowing on-site, supervised use of drugs. We advocate for supervised consumption pilot programs in the U.S. 

Syringe Access
Sterile syringe access programs help lower the risks of HIV and hepatitis C by limiting syringe sharing and providing safe disposal options. We support wider access to sterile syringes by ending policies that criminalize syringe possession and limit sterile syringe distribution.

Drug Checking
Drug checking (also known as pill testing or adulterant screening) allows people who use drugs to identify the substance they intend on taking and helps prevent harms associated with unknowingly consuming a substance adulterated with a dangerous contaminant like fentanyl. We advance policies that permit the wide scale use and distribution of testing supplies and equipment as well as drug checking research.

Harm Reduction