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Every day, we engage in some form of harm reduction. We wash our hands to prevent the spread of diseases like the common cold or the flu. Similarly, putting on a seatbelt when in a car or on a bus can reduce injuries should there be an accident.

When it comes to harm reduction around using substances, most of us are familiar with measures like having a designated driver when drinking. Harm reduction does not mean asking people to stop drinking or to cut down on their drinking. Instead, when we use a designated driver, we are trying to make the roads safer and lower the risks of a fatal alcohol-involved accident.

Harm reduction extends the ideas of safety and lowering risks to other substances. It includes abstinence but doesn’t rely on it as the only way to move toward wellness.

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Overview and Self-Paced Courses

What does harm reduction really mean? Our resources below can help answer your questions, including how to talk to your loved one about it.

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Substance-Specific Harm Reduction

Read below for guides on how to reduce risks when using specific substances.

Safety First

Helping your loved one stay as safe as possible when using substances can reduce the spread of diseases and potentially save their life.


I couldn’t grasp being sober for the rest of my life, but I think that’s a huge part of why I am okay and sober, because, I knew that it didn’t have to be complete abstinence. I had to drink on my 21st birthday. I didn’t, but I thought I did. And that not looking at it like, “Oh my God, I relapsed. I haven’t used opiates in two years.” Should I have drank? No, but I didn’t have to throw everything away. And I think sometimes, people look at recovery like you have to be completely abstinent and you have to do it this way. If I was looking at it that way and I didn’t have Recovery High, I probably would’ve just thrown it all away.

Northshore Recovery High Student

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Treatment plans should be based on your loved one’s goals and what they want to change about their substance use. Any step toward reducing risks is a step in the right direction.

Managing Pain without Opioids

Support your loved one in finding options for pain relief that may be safer and healthier for them.

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Personal Stories

Listen to our Heart of the Matter Podcasts featuring guests who share their journeys using harm reduction. Also find other resources should you wish to support harm reduction in your community.

More tools to help you and your loved one.

Help & Hope by Text

Our personalized text messaging program is designed to help you support your loved one and yourself whether your interest is in prevention, intervention, treatment or recovery.

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Advocacy Toolkit

Get step-by-step instructions on how to advocate, including tips on building relationships and effectively communicating with lawmakers. We're transforming how our nation addresses addiction and need your voice!

Download the Toolkit
Safe Locator

Find support and treatment for you or your loved one. Search confidentially from our comprehensive list of substance use support and treatment resources.

Go to Safelocator