In the realm of drug and alcohol addiction treatment, there has been a lot of talk concerning harm reduction, especially when it relates to opiate addicts and other intravenous drug users. Essentially what harm reduction entails is some carefully planned strategic methods, set in place to properly educate the “using public” on various topics; ranging from safe use (i.e. needle exchange) to programs of abstinence. Considering that the designs for harm reduction are geared towards specific community and individual needs, there is no one set definition or formula. (Harm Reduction Coalition).

While we at Oregon Trail Recovery are strictly an abstinence, 12-step based program, there are still some aspects linked to harm reduction that we can certainly get behind. For one, harm reduction does accept that for better or worse, illicit drug use is a part of the world we live in today. Vilifying those who abuse illicit substances does not minimize the problem and neither does ignoring it. We know that education is an invaluable tool to the addict in recovery, and not just about their use specifically, but rather the consequences that can come from their use.

The main consequence which comes to mind involves their physical health. Harm reduction efforts focus a lot of their energy on educating the public about what diseases can be transmitted by addicts in their active use. Diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C can plague a whole community of illicit drug users and it is important for them to get tested, and to understand that there several avenues of support which they can potentially seek.

Harm reduction also aims to educate the public about safe sex, which essentially falls under the category of self-care. We at Oregon Trail Recovery constantly stress to our clients the importance of self-care, especially how it relates to their physical well-being. It is safe to say that while most of us were in our active addictions, we did not always take care of ourselves and some adverse effects followed. To prevent these adverse effects, we can meet harm reduction half way, and present the importance of safe sex in a non-judgmental way, ensuring our client that they are always safe and that we have their best interest at heart.

As addicts in recovery, we at OTR know that we cannot fight this disease alone and we need every resource in our tool box necessary to educate and help our clients. Harm Reduction offers several tools we can employ to help our clients while still steering them towards a life which is abstinent from all drugs and alcohol.

If you would like to learn more about harm reduction, we encourage you to learn more about the principles of harm reduction available in your community and how it can best benefit you or anyone else who suffers from the crippling disease of addiction.


-J. Dalton Williams

Client Support Specialist