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What is Harm Reduction?

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

Harm reduction is an approach to substance use and other behaviours that seeks to reduce the health, social, and legal harms associated with the behaviour. Substance use in Canada was traditionally viewed as a criminal problem, rather than a health problem. Since the introduction of harm reduction in Vancouver in the 1990's, the philosophy has slowly begun to take hold and make its way into public health policy. This has resulted in hugely reduced rates of infectious disease transmissions, more awareness about the nature of substance use, and improved outcomes for people who use substances in Vancouver.

It's not always the drug itself that does the most harm to the person using it - it is often the laws, health policies, and social attitudes surrounding that person that are most harmful. At SUSEP, we help people who are using substances to better understand their rights, their value in the community, and their ability to overcome the adversity that is levelled against them as a result of negative social attitudes towards substance use. We believe that harm reduction is an effective philosophy to apply to supporting people who use substances.


Lupick, T. (2017). Fighting For Space: How A Group of Drug Users Transformed One City's Struggle With Addiction. Arsenal Pulp Press.

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