Drugs: Reducing Harm

  1. Have you ever felt you should cut down on your alcohol or drug use?
  2. Have people annoyed you by talking to you about your alcohol or drug use?
  3. Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your alcohol or drug use?
  4. Have you ever used alcohol or drugs in the morning to steady your nerves or feel better? (Like it's an "eye opener?")
Any of these questions answered yes is an indication of substance abuse and two or more answered is a red flag for addiction.

When it comes to recreational drug use, one concept that is critical in prevention is one that we call "HARM REDUCTION." This means that we know all too well that quitting drugs can be very difficult. It is best to quit. But until then, we recommend that you reduce the likelihood of harming yourself as you use drugs.

According to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health Services, 14% of HIV infections reported in Kentucky were due to injection drug use. If you shoot up with used needles you're taking a huge risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis C. This means that it is possible that they were infected by shooting up with used needles rather than by having unprotected sex. There are several issues to consider when thinking about using drugs, especially if you shoot up.

The concept of "Harm Reduction" often appears like a validation of substance abuse. It is not. We all know that drug use is harmful, and that elimination of substance abuse is the ultimate goal. "Harm Reduction" simply recognizes that it's best when people quit using on their own terms, and in their own time and space. That's just the reality of it all. But "Harm Reduction" goes one loving step further: while you're still getting ready to quit, do what you can to lessen the probability of incredible health problems. It's equivalent to encouraging smokers of unfiltered cigarettes to switch to filtered cigarettes. Or to encourage that someone eats a hearty meal before they go out drinking. One of the differences between these two examples and harm reduction for people who abuse other substances is that these other substances are not very socially acceptable. So, when we show an injecting drug user how to shoot up "properly," we're not saying "look everybody ... shooting up is fun and easy, so here's how to do it!" What we are saying is "shooting up drugs is a disaster waiting to happen ... try to quit ... try hard ... and until you get to that point, let's see what you can do to avoid some of the common hazards."

Of course, shooting up can be very harmful. If you are thinking of quitting, professional help is also available check out the treatment resources section of this website.

If you're not ready to quit, please make your drug use safer... here's how: