The Philosophy of

Harm Reduction

Is there a philosophy of harm reduction?

'The philosophy of harm reduction' is a phrase that's been used by many people over the years. When someone says it we all nod and agree with what the person is saying as if we understand exactly what they mean. But do we, in fact do they understand it themselves? 

Harm reduction grew out of community organizing, research, and clinical practice in the last quarter of the 20th century. At the same time, many of the arguments for harm reduction echo discussions in the history of ideas, as found in pragmatism, utilitarianism, and the ancient Greek philosopher, Epicurus.
We wish to explore if harm reduction can, as well as being a collection of practical interventsions, be seen as a lifestyle philosophy in it's own right.

Get involved

At the moment we are in the early stages of this work, but if you'd like to get involved we would love to know your thoughts on harm reduction as a philosophy. Often the best way to do this is by getting together socially and talking late into the night, but given that getting around all the harm reduction folk would take a lot of time and air miles we have instead developed a short questionaire.

Mission statement

Many of us came to harm reduction out of necessity, idealism, or both. We don’t kid ourselves that the real work of harm reduction is performed through the daily struggle of individuals and communities. At the same time, we believe that exploring the philosophical foundations of harm reduction can benefit the movement and the lives of people.

Latest news

Responses: Question One

Thank you to everyone who completed the harm reduction philosophy survey- we received well over 100 responses! Now the fun begins- analyzing the results. There are a number of ways to do this, and we are going to try several (for example, running fancy statistics). But today, we’re going to start a series where we unpack one survey question at a time, beginning with question one.

All news

Amazing response from you all

The idea for the project has been knocking around for a long time, discussions at conferences, on email and over skype all helped make us think this was something that might be interesting. But what we didn’t expect was such a great reaction from you all.

All news

  • “Harm reduction, not just for other people”

    Urban Survivors’ Union
  • “No pleasure is a bad thing in itself, but the things which produce certain pleasures entail harms many times greater than the pleasures themselves.”

    Epicurus
  • “The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety.”

    Goethe
  • “Be curious, not judgemental.”

    Walt Whitman