Drug Prevention Network Canada
Harm Reduction

Harm reduction has come to represent a philosophy in which illicit substance use is seen as largely unpreventable, and increasingly, as a feasible and acceptable lifestyle as long as use is not "problematic". At it's root of this philosophy lay an acceptance of drug use into the mainstream of society. We reject this philosophy as fatalistic and faulty at its core. The idea that we can use drugs safely is a dangerous one. The potential problems from substance use are simply too varied, numerous and unpredictable. And, substance use is not inevitable. Families and communities have considerable power to prevent substance use if they have the will and resources. Substance use is not just another choice. It is in fact an unsafe choice that brings great harm to individuals, families, and communities across . And it sends the wrong message to the most valuable yet vulnerable group of Canadians - our children and youth. The Drug Prevention Network of Canada believes that:

  • Primary or universal prevention - preventing the onset of drug use in the first place and discouraging the use of drugs by all appropriate means - remains the cornerstone of any responsible drug policy. No other strategy should displace prevention as the leading goal of drug policy.
  • Where drug use is becoming established we need to first seek to help these individuals stop using.
  • We must do much more to effectively help individuals addicted to substances not only to get off the substance but also to recover their lives and gain the strengths and support necessary to staying off the substance(s).
  • Social policies that embrace harm reduction as the central objective inevitably promote more substance use and discount abstinence as an overall goal. This appears evident in Europe, and almost certainly has contributed already to a substantial increase in cannabis use among young people in recent years.
  • Social policies that embrace harm reduction tend to marginalize or ignore prevention, and instead focus on the harm caused by substances after the fact, without addressing the need for persons to get off of the substances that are disabling them. Therefore policies need to embrace demand reduction and use specific harm reduction strategies only as an interim measure in coordination with recognized abstinence-based programs. We believe this form of harm reduction may be successful as an intermediate step, if used carefully within programs capable of establishing and maintaining abstinence.
  • The elected governments of , her provinces and territories, and her municipalities, must become aware of the consequences of a harm reduction philosophy and ensure the retrenchment of prevention as the ensign of drug policy and programs from the local to the national level. Such a goal is positive, affirms the worth of individuals, and supports Canadian families in raising healthy, happy and responsible children.

© 2008 Drug Prevention Network of Canada. All rights reserved.