A Public Health Perspective on High-Risk Youth Behavior: Harm Reduction in Prevention Policy

Skager, R.
Year Published: 2003
The EMT Group, Inc.
California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs

The author of this ten-page paper examines the principle of harm reduction in the efforts to curb substance use by young people. He explains that most current policy stresses zero tolerance, but that a harm reduction or minimization approach may be necessary as well. The author begins by identifying barriers to the acceptance of harm reduction as a prevention tool, as well as potential consequences of various drug control policies. He considers whether zero- tolerance prevention can be ineffective or even harmful. The author then describes how prevention would change if harm reduction were incorporated. Three types of assistance would be provided under such an approach: (a) promote personal safety; (b) decrease potential harms; and (3) provide help to problematic users. The author concludes by summarizing the arguments of zero tolerance and harm reduction, asserting that a change is needed in the current drug control policy.

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