Harm Reduction

The philosophy and practice of harm reduction is considered a pragmatic, evidence-based approach to drug use, which seeks to reduce substance use-related harms to individuals and communities, without discontinuing substance use itself. Harm Reduction remains an important pillar to many drug strategies across Ontario with shared goals of:

  • Advocating for the uptake and increase in harm reduction services
  • Increasing awareness and understanding of harm reduction
  • Preventing and reducing the incidence of opioid-related harms and opioid overdoses
  • Improving the management and response to overdose events through education and naloxone distribution; and
  • Reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with substance use

Within the harm reduction approach, the main goal is to meet a person where they are at in terms of their substance use, at a given time. Harm reduction programming comes in many forms, including street outreach (literally meeting people where they are at), safer injection and inhalation programs, prescription maintenance programs (i.e., methadone maintenance therapy and access to Suboxone), supervised consumption sites and overdose prevention sites, drug testing services, and access to naloxone, counselling, and referrals.

Harm reduction does not enable drug use, but instead recognizes that substance use is a part of life and attempts to reduce the harms associated with the behaviour. For example, safe injection sites have shown significant success throughout North America, especially in terms of reducing public disorder, infectious disease transmission, and overdoses, as well as an increasing number of clients seeking treatment facilities.

Even though this region does not have a safe injection site of its own, community members do have access to an array of local harm reduction programs and services, including:

List of Other Resources:

Bergen-Cico, D., & Lapple, A. (2015). Examination of safe crack use kit distribution from a public health perspective: Examination of safe crack use kit distribution. World Medical & Health Policy, 7(4), 349-367. doi:10.1002/wmh3.169

2  Schwartz, R., Taylor, E., & Strategy Design and Evaluation Initiative. (2018a). MDSCNO Coordinators Survey Analysis. [Unpublished manuscript]. University of Toronto, ON.

3 Kerr, T., Mitra, S., Kennedy, M. C., & McNeil, R. (2017). Supervised injection facilities in Canada: Past, present, and future. Harm Reduction Journal, 14(1), 28. doi:10.1186/s12954-017-0154-1