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Harm Reduction

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use.

What is Harm Reduction


Harm reduction principles are used everyday, when people proactively reduce the negative impacts of everyday legal and illegal behaviors. From using seat belts to wearing helmets, individuals naturally adopt strategies to prioritize their well-being. In the context of substance use, harm reduction approaches aim to minimize harm and promote health through practical and evidence-based interventions.

Harm reduction is crucial in addressing substance use disorder (SUD) because it acknowledges that not everyone is immediately ready for recovery and that some may continue using drugs despite prevention efforts. This compassionate approach supports individuals where they are on their journey, promoting safety, and minimizing harm while fostering the path towards eventual recovery. 

Examples of Harm Reduction at Overdose Lifeline include:

Benefits of Harm Reduction

Harm reduction has a significant positive impact when we prioritize the health and well-being of individuals who use drugs. A few reasons why harm reduction is essential for addressing SUD:

Harm Reduction saves lives

Harm reduction interventions such as needle exchange programs and overdose prevention initiatives can prevent fatal overdoses and the transmission of bloodborne diseases. Access to naloxone, for example, can swiftly reverse opioid overdoses and save lives.

Harm Reduction promotes safer practices

Harm reduction strategies provide education and resources to promote safer drug use practices. Safer drug use practices can help reduce the likelihood of adverse reactions, infections, and other negative consequences.

Harm Reduction removes barriers in access to healthcare

Harm reduction programs reduce the stigma surrounding SUD, creating opportunities to engage with healthcare providers. Individuals with SUD are more likely to seek help, access treatment, and engage in other support services that can facilitate their recovery journey.

Overdose Prevention Tips

Test your drugs for fentanyl.

Carry naloxone.

Never use alone.



Xylazine, a non-opioid sedative used in veterinary medicine, has recently gained attention for its role in increasing overdoses nationwide. However, it is not new to the illicit drug market. The effects of xylazine kick in within minutes of administration (smoking, snorting, swallowing, inhaling, or injecting) and can last upwards of 8 hours. Because xylazine is not an opioid, naloxone will not reverse a xylazine overdose. But, since xylazine is typically co-ingested with opioids like fentanyl, naloxone should be administered in the event of an overdose to reverse the effects of the opioid in the system. Learn more about xylazine on our blog.

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