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Harm Reduction

Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with both drug use and ineffective, radicalized drug policies. 

Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs.

Harm reduction stands in stark contrast to a punitive approach to problematic drug use—it is based on acknowledging the dignity and humanity of people who use drugs and bringing them into a community of care in order to minimize negative consequences and promote optimal health and social inclusion.

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Accepts, for better or worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them

Understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe use to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others

Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being — not necessarily cessation of all drug use — as the criteria for successful interventions and policies

Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm

Ensures that people who use drugs and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them

Affirms people who use drugs (PWUD) themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use and seeks to empower PWUD to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use

Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination, and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm

Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger that can be associated with illicit drug use



Some of the best-known harm-reduction tools for safer drug use include:

Free syringe service programs

Overdose prevention sites

Fentanyl tests

Naloxone kits and training 

Sterile injection or smoking equipment 

Harm reduction also comprises addiction facilities, support groups, and medical services, including wound care, vaccinations, and COVID-19 masks. Sex education, STI testing and treatment, condoms, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are other critical harm reduction tools and services.

In the context of harm reduction from the criminal justice system, equitable mental healthcare access and treatment is a form of harm reduction.  Removing police from mental health crisis response is another. Harm reduction in mental health also looks like training and supporting more Black and other people of color in the field of psychiatry. 

Our SRO Abuse Reporting System is another harm reduction tool to prevent school children from getting involved in the criminal justice system. 

Our Harm Reduction Collective

Harm Reduction COllective.png

Online Naloxone Training and Self-Assesment 

Using the link below, you can take a training on naloxone administration, perform a self-assessment, and receive a certificate of completion (be sure to enter your name and the date on the certificate of completion). Completing the process takes about 15 minutes.  Link to naloxone training for general public.

Harm Reduction Resources


Regional Overdose Prevention Specialists

What is Naloxone, Good Samaritan Law, Tennessee Addiction Act Link
Naloxone Training Information, Narcan (

Tennessee’s Faces of Opioids
TN Faces of Opioids

Tennessee’s Faces of opioids – “Tell Your Story” link
Share Your Story (

Tennessee Drug Overdose Dashboard
Data Dashboard (

Tennessee 2020 Overdose Report
2020_Tennessee_Drug_Overdose_Deaths.pdf (

Tennessee 2021 Overdose Report
2021 TN Annual Overdose Report.pdf

Peer Recovery Services
Peer Recovery Services (

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