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Define harm reduction/harm minimization, and give examples of drug policies and programs that are consistent with this philosophy.

Harm reduction or harm minimization refers to an approach towards drugs that aims for safer drug use. Breaking down the term, it strives to “reduce” or “minimize” the “harm” caused by drugs. Harm reduction policies are unique in that they accept recreational drug use as opposed to criminalizing it. For example, some programs that follow the harm reduction philosophy offer clean needles to drug users so that they are less likely to get HIV.

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Harm reduction and minimization are terms used to refer to the advocacy for safe drug use. The philosophy promotes the idea that if drugs are used under safe conditions, they are less likely to cause harm. For example, if a person does drugs in a facility monitored by a medical doctor, there is a low chance that the user will overdose.

The ideology behind such facilities is that when drugs are used safely, drug users are less likely to face negative medical consequences and social discrimination. Without a social stigma attached to drug use, the hope is that more people addicted to drugs will seek treatment, because they no longer feel they will be judged. Also, if drugs are not causing harm, then there is less of a need to criminalize drugs. Some harm reduction advocates feel that without the criminalization of drug use, there will eventually be less strain on criminal justice systems.

Harm reduction programs have become increasingly popular since the mid-twentieth century, especially in Europe. For example, one of the first popular applications of this philosophy was at the creation of a drug consumption facility in which drug users take drugs under secure, monitored conditions. The staff at these facilities works to ensure that users do not overdose, share needles, or put anyone in harm’s way while under the influence of drugs. The attached article includes several interesting examples of such facilities around the world.

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