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Harm Reduction Approach to Drug Use: Is there any other option?

The current drug policies governing specifically, the provision of treatment to substance users is limited to the abstinence-only approach. Harm reduction is deemed to be another liberating idea from the Western and argued to be unacceptable to the Philippines’ conservative culture (Lasco, 2021). This idea is critical and even dangerous with the current drug policy in the country criminalizing drug use. This law forces people using drugs to completely abstain from their drug use with their life on the line. However, the abrupt abstinence-only approach may not apply to everyone. It may not be a practical approach for them (MacMaster, 2004). There are many reasons why a person uses drugs, and that a person continues his use despite possible legal implications may imply that the drugs have done something good for them. Some of them may not see drugs as problematic or do not have the skill to abstain now. If the only law we have is for people who are willing and can stop using it at once, then how about the rest who equally need help? Where can they receive the help that will treat them with respect and dignity following their human rights? How about the help for individuals who may not be immediately interested in total abstinence? One of the problems of this approach is the dismissive view of these people as resistant, unmotivated, unwilling thus, undeserving of help.

This adds up to the inherent stigma that drug use has. Drug users are negatively viewed as immoral, lazy, and criminals in the present society (Gomes, 2022). This is the messaging that we package in our education, one that disregards the unique experiences of people without asking them what they truly need. As society continues to oppress the marginalized community into fitting what they set as “healthy” standards, these people begin internalizing these views and begin believing that they are irresponsible and have no hope left because of their inability to stop their drug use (Gomes, 2022).

After all the wrecking disasters experienced by our country with the oppression of people linked to drug use, it is time to reform our policies and begin considering the experiences of these people in developing a policy that seeks the genuine interest of all people. Instead of finding faults in substance use treatment efficiency and the client’s lack of motivation, it is necessary to provide continuum care relative to the needs of the client. In the treatment of substance use, relapse is natural even after

Receiving the treatment. Harm Reduction is an approach to eliminating the negative harms or consequences of drug use without necessarily stopping the drug use immediately (Des Jarlais, 1995 as cited in MacMaster, 2004). The service providers develop interventions for reducing drug-related harm promoting a treatment that is not only limited to abstinence (MacMaster, 2004).

Substance use has been a part of our society and will continue in the coming years. Moreover, accepting this reality and moving forward in our transformative response to our current education and policies will save countless lives.



Gomes, A. Paulo Freire: Review of “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”. Harm Reduct J

Lasco, G. Decolonizing harm reduction. Harm Reduct J 19, 8 (2022).

MacMaster, S. A. (2004). Harm Reduction: A New Perspective on Substance Abuse

Services. Social Work, 49(3), 356-63.


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