What is Harm Reduction?
Harm reduction is a set of ideas and interventions that seek to reduce the harms associated with both drug use and drug policies. Harm reduction is based on acknowledging the humanity of people who use drugs and bringing them into a community of care to minimize negative consequences and promote optimal health and social inclusion.
Harm reduction can focus on several different key areas, both through medicine and culture. Alaska Native culture can influence and play a part in harm reduction. Cultural and traditional practices can play a huge role in helping lower dependency, addiction, and providing harm reduction. An example of these practices includes hunting, fishing, gathering, canoeing, singing, dancing, and storytelling. In addition to cultural practice, medical harm reduction strategies are also playing a helpful role in reducing drug harms, these include the following.
Reducing Discrimination Against Drug Users
It is very important to end discrimination against people who use drugs. This can be done by reducing the negative stigma associated with both recreational and problematic drug use and encouraging people to have compassion and to not judge a person based on their drug use behaviors.
Opioid Overdose and Naloxone (Narcan®) Training
Accidental drug overdose is currently the leading cause of death in the United States for those under 50. Most of these deaths are preventable. Naloxone (or Narcan®) is a drug that works to reverse an opioid overdose. The iknowmine program works with the State of Alaska to provide Opioid Overdose and Narcan® Kits available to people throughout the state.
Syringe Access & Harm Reduction Toolkit
Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) and iknowmine provide syringe access programs that help lower the risk of HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) by limiting needle sharing and providing clean drug use products and safe disposal options.