Harm Reduction

Most syringe services programs (SSPs) operate according to the practices and philosophy of harm reduction. Harm reduction is an evolving set of practical strategies that reduce the negative consequences of drug use and other high-risk behaviors. It recognizes a spectrum of drug use between chaotic use and abstinence and promotes ways for people to manage their use and to use more safely. 

SSPs, community naloxone distribution and drug-checking with fentanyl test strips are all harm reduction techniques that reduce the risks associated with drug use. Harm reduction is also a philosophy based on the belief that people who use drugs deserve to protect themselves and their loved ones, whether or not they are seeking treatment. Meeting people where they are to provide services allows harm reduction programs to work with participants to address drug use and conditions of use. It is an effective model: people engaged in SSPs are five times more likely to enter treatment for substance use disorder than non-participants.