Most commonly used in the discussion around the opioid epidemic, Harm Reduction is the comprehensive practice of focusing on life-saving efforts in conjunction with recovery efforts. Some focused harm reduction programs include needle exchanges and opioid overdose education programs. It is possible, and often necessary, for treatment programs to integrate some themes of harm reduction into a primary recovery theme. The most common example of this would be offering a service called Overdose Education / Naloxone Distribution (OEND) to patients struggling with opioid addiction. This involves helping patients access the overdose antidote, naloxone, in case recovery efforts seem to fail and the person relapses on opioid painkillers or heroin.
Other addictions can also be addressed through harm reduction approaches. Some of these involve preventative efforts around intoxicated driving, goals of moderated substance use when applicable, or treatment approaches which will keep a dialogue active with patients, even if they continue to move in and out of substance use. This approach is sometimes described as “meet patients where they’re at.” If a program endorses strong commitments to these above listed harm reduction themes, they would qualify for our ‘Reduce’ rating.