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The term `Harm Reduction’ is not accepted by the OVOM network, nor are the principles that underpin harm reduction, as we do not support any practices that give the wrong signals and keep the drug user addicted. This can perpetuate danger to themselves and others around them.

The principles of `Harm reduction’ are used in some countries as a drug policy; however, in practice, it means accepting drug use that gives not only incorrect signals but enables drug use. Selling, growing and manufacturing drugs, handing out needles and the use of methadone are examples of so called ‘harm reduction’ practices. They are, in effect, promoting more harm by condoning drug use, creating a destructive lifestyle and damaging health impacts to millions of people, families and society. In fact, such enabling practices contravene the international commitments and national laws which are based on the International United Nations Drug Control Conventions.

If OVOM were to use the term, `Harm Reduction’, we would simply be imitating the propaganda of the drug liberal movement at all levels which is clearly unacceptable.

The official meaning of Harm Reduction in the health field, used in many hospitals where people in palliative care get help, is in order to relieve their pain. It has nothing to do with drug policies.

There are no sound grounds in public health for harm reduction when treating people who use drugs, as they: fail to address the real needs of the individual user – that is to ‘stop using’ and to be ‘clean of narcotics’;  fail the user’s family and  fail society as a whole.

How Harm Reduction failed a country

Australia adopted `Harm Reduction’ as its official drug policy in 1985 and saw opiate deaths roughly triple by 1999. At that time the Federal Government introduced ‘Tough on Drugs’, a policy that put its emphasis on drug prevention and rehabilitation while maintaining the harm reduction interventions already in place. This policy saw a 39% decrease in illicit drug use overall, with cannabis use reducing by 50%, Ice and Speed reducing by 46%, and heroin by 75%. Opiate deaths were reduced by 68% by 2007. These excellent results could have been even better without the underlying harm reduction philosophy still running interference.

Treating drug epidemics by accepting and regulating illegal drugs, is like fighting malaria by hunting mosquitos. It can keep a lot of people employed but is useless!


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