Harm reduction is a way of preventing disease and promoting health that “meets people where they are” rather than making judgments about where they should be in terms of their personal health and lifestyle. Accepting that not everyone is ready or able to stop risky or illegal behavior, harm reduction focuses on promoting scientifically proven ways of mitigating health risks associated with drug use and other high risk behaviors, including condom distribution, access to sterile syringes, medications for opioid dependence such as methadone and buprenorphine, and overdose prevention.
Emphasizing public health and human rights, harm reduction programs provide essential health information and services while respecting individual dignity and autonomy. Implementing harm reduction practices widely in the US is not just sound public health policy, it is a human rights imperative. Yet in too many states, misguided laws and policies block harm reduction and prevent drug users from accessing sterile syringes that can save their lives. One such state is North Carolina.
With the support of state government for harm reduction, many more people could be reached and many more saved.