Harm reduction policies, programmes, services and actions work to reduce the health, social and economic harms to individuals, communities and society that are associated with the use of drugs.
A harm reduction approach recognises that the aim of substance misuse interventions is to reduce the relative risks associated with substance misuse. This is by a range of measures such as reducing the sharing of injecting equipment, providing support for stopping injecting, and providing substitution opioid drugs for heroin misusers with support for abstinence from illegal drugs.
Harm reduction should be a whole system approach to reduce or eliminate the harms (behaviours, diseases or deaths) associated with drug use. Such harms might include (but are not limited to):
• Spread of blood-borne viruses via injecting or sexual activity
• Overdose or unintentional injury (which might lead to premature drug-related death)
• Increased risk through co-morbidity (e.g. alcohol, mental health)
• Septicaemia, wound infections and other infections resulting from injecting
• Other general/primary healthcare issues, such as sexual health and dental health
SMST Leicestershire & Rutland have implemented a local harm reduction strategy to ensure the local delivery of these issues and hold regular substance misuse harm reduction forums for professionals within commissioned services.