Module 6: how drugs work: learner's workbook

11.4 Harm minimisation

Page last updated: 2004

Harm minimisation aims to reduce the harmful health, social and economic consequences of alcohol and other drugs on individuals and society. It is based on the Public Health model. Goals and strategies for harm minimisation are wide ranging. The approach is broad enough so that the goals of safer drug use, controlled use and abstinence can all be accommodated.

Harm minimisation is accepted Commonwealth policy.

Harm minimisation strategies can be categorised into three areas:

  • Harm reduction - Strategies that aim to reduce the harm from drugs for both individuals and communities. These strategies do not necessarily aim to stop drug use. Examples include needle syringe services, methadone maintenance, brief interventions, peer education and education for safer drug use.

  • Supply reduction - Strategies aimed at reducing the production and supply of illicit drugs. Examples include legislation and law enforcement.

  • Demand reduction - Strategies aimed at preventing the uptake of harmful drug use. Examples include community development projects and media campaigns.
In this module, as we are focusing on the drug itself we will emphasise harm reduction strategies.