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NCJ Number: 194222 Find in a Library
Title: Harm Reduction and Illegal Drugs: The True Debate
Journal: Gazette  Volume:63  Issue:4  Dated:2001  Pages:6-11
Author(s): Colin Mangham Ph.D.
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 6
Sponsoring Agency: Canada Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0S5,
Type: Issue Overview
Format: Article
Language: English; French
Country: Canada
Annotation: This paper critically examines harm reduction as it has been used in Canada as a new guiding philosophy in the way drugs and drug use are viewed, and as both a means and justification for softening or eliminating drug laws.
Abstract: The term harm reduction is being used more and more to describe a global philosophical approach and philosophy in addressing drug problems. Advocates of this type of harm reduction argue for some form of decriminalization and legalization of substances. Supporters of harm reduction as the new drug philosophy tend to forward three overlapping arguments: (1) that a “moral panic” is the main reason drugs are illegal; (2) that harm reduction focuses compassionately on reducing harm while other approaches label drug users as deficient or deviant; and (3) that people always have and always will use drugs, so harm reduction is the only practical answer. Each of these arguments contains false assumptions. First, harm reduction is not values-neutral. There is no such thing as values-neutral in human discourse and action. Second, harm reduction as a guiding philosophy may wrap itself in a cloak of tolerance, but it lacks true compassion. Making illegal drugs available that hurt families and harm personal potential is anything but compassionate. Third, the supposed pragmatism of harm reduction sells citizens and the Nation short. To say that all that can be done is to help drug users medicate themselves constitutes classic cop out realism. In addition, the assumption that because the nation is powerless to prevent youth from using drugs, all that can be done is to ensure that they do so with minimal risk. The following steps are offered as a better alternative to harm reduction: (1) the nation should stop using harm reduction as the term to describe Canada’s response to drugs; (2) the Nation should confirm a positive goal for society where illegal drug use is not considered a positive or sustainable lifestyle; (3) the Nation should confirm its commitment to help addicted people get off drugs; and (4) the Nation should place its energies on a preventive approach to substance abuse. 25 References
Main Term(s): Drug laws; Drug prevention programs
Index Term(s): British Columbia; Canada; Crime Control Programs; Drug law enforcement; Drug law offenses; Drug legalization; Drug regulation; Drug treatment programs; Public Opinion of Drug Abuse
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