Zero Tolerance Versus Harm Reduction Essay

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Harm reduction focuses on harms associated with the use of a particular drug, and how these harms can be minimised or reduced. It promotes a change in attitude towards both physically and psychologically addicted drug users (drug info). It acknowledges that drugs are, and will continue to be a part of our society (Drug Info Sheet). It is unique in that it highlights the links between the person, the drug, the environment and circumstances in which they are using it (drug info). Harm reduction is a holistic approach, considering problems such as the availability of the drug in the community, the prevalence of its use, and how much is known about the drug and its effects and harms in the community (drug info). Harm reduction supports the traditional abstinence goal of drug treatment services by encouraging an abstinence-based approach, providing drug users with the knowledge and tools to reduce harm until they can achieve and maintain abstinence (WHO, 2006). The focus is on empowering people to make their own choices about their drug use and therefore encouraging more people to participate in treatment and prevention programs (drug info). Zero tolerance is an extreme form of harm reduction, endorsing the prohibition of any drug use (Bonomo & Bowes, 2000). Theoretically, zero tolerance would be the most effective approach to reducing substance-related harm (Bonomo & Bowes, 2000). However, public health, community safety and police-community relations would be severely affected and compromised because of a wholly zero tolerance policy (Dixon & Coffin, 1999). The short term benefits such as reducing crime, however it also can lead to a plethora of counterproductive effects (Aitken’s et al 2002; Bonomo & Bowes, 2000). The phrase zero tolerance was promoted and endorsed by the Howard government, who stated that no level or aspect of illicit drug use should be
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