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Harm Reduction is a way of promoting health and preventing drug related harm that meets people where they are at.

Harm reduction focuses on reducing the risks and adverse health consequences associated with unsafe drug use, in particular HIV and viral hepatitis.


Harm reduction programs have been shown to lower risk of HIV and hepatitis transmission for drug users by offering information and assistance in a non-judgmental manner.

Important Principles of Harm Reduction Include:

  • A non-judgmental approach that treats every person with dignity, compassion, and respect.

  • Use of evidence-based and cost-effective practices to prevent and reduce drug related harm

  • Active and meaningful participation of drug users and community stakeholders in shaping sensible policies and practices around drug use

  • Focus on enhancing quality of life for individuals and communities, rather than promoting cessation of all drug use

  • Recognition of the determinants of health and the complex interplay of social factors that influence vulnerability to drug-related harm, including poverty, social inequality and discrimination

  • Empowerment of drug users as the primary agents in reducing drug related harms

  • Commitment to defending universal human rights.

Harm reduction activities and interventions to improve the health and quality of life for people who use drugs and their communities, include:

  • Peer education- people who use drugs informing and educating people who use drugs

  • Needle and syringe programs (NSPs);

  • Pharmacotherapies (ORT) for drug dependence, including methadone and suboxone;

  • Voluntary testing for HIV, viral hepatitis and other STIs or blood borne infections;

  • Confidential pre and post-test discussion and counselling

  • Access to treatment for HIV and hepatitis C & B and other STIs

  • Provision of primary health care including wound care and vein care

  • Overdose prevention activities, including peer distribution of Naloxone and first aid training;

  • Referral to drug treatment programs as requested.


Some other forms of Harm Reduction include:

  • Seatbelts in vehicles

  • Cancer Screening

  • Wearing bicycle helmets

  • Using condoms

  • Sun screen and sun protection

  • Nicotine patches/gum


As our name suggests (Harm Reduction Victoria),

HARM REDUCTION is our stock and trade and all the information on our website is based on a ‘harm reduction’ approach to drug use.

‘Harm reduction’ recognizes that abstinence (i.e. quitting drugs altogether) isn’t realistic or possible for everyone.

However, this should not disqualify drug users from the same chances and choices about health care as non-users.

By learning about drugs and ways to reduce the harms associated with drug use,

you are empowering yourself to make informed choices.

HRVic’s website provides you with non-judgmental, accurate, up to date information so that you can make healthy choices for yourself. Rather than re-inventing the wheel, we have included links to other excellent websites, and to other drug user organisations, for all the information you need to stay safe.




Aren't they the same thing?

In a word?



Since 1985 Australia’s documented drug strategy has aimed to address the harmful use of licit drugs (tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical drugs), illicit drugs (heroin, cannabis, cocaine and amphetamine-type stimulants) and other psychoactive substances (e.g. inhalants), using a harm minimisation approach.


The principle of ‘harm minimisation’ provides the overarching framework for drug policy in Australia [1, 2].

There are multiple ways to minimise the harms to individuals and communities from drug use – reflecting this, the framework of harm minimisation encompasses the three pillars of demand reduction, harm reduction, and supply reduction [3].


Harm minimisation seeks a balance between these elements, and is regarded as an evidence-based and pragmatic approach [4]. This approach has facilitated collaboration across health, law enforcement and education, as well as partnerships between governments and with non-government agencies and community stakeholders.




  1. Ritter A, Lancaster K, Grech K, Reuter P (2011) Monograph No. 21: An assessment of illicit drug policy in Australia (1985-2010): Themes and trends. Sydney: National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre

  2. Ritter A, Lancaster K (2013) Policy models and influences on policy processes. In: Ritter A, Hamilton M, King T, eds. Drug Use in Australian Society. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press

  3. Ministerial Council on Drug Strategy (2011) National Drug Strategy 2010-2015: A framework for action on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia

  4. Ritter A, Cameron J (2006) A review of the efficacy and effectiveness of harm reduction strategies for alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs. Drug and Alcohol Review;25:611-624

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