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  • University : University of Wollongong
  • Subject Name : Medical Sciences

Essay Writing: Harm Minimization

Harm minimization is the approach that has been adopted by Australia for minimizing the harm that is caused by the use of “tobacco, illicit drugs and alcohol” (Eaton et al., 2018). The use of drugs among the adults and other sections of the population has increased drastically and this has potential harm causing agents that is risky for the consumers. This approach of harm reduction has recognized that the usage of drugs is a complex phenomenon that can never be eliminated so an attempt should be made to support the drug consumers so that the harm caused to them and the wider community can be reduced. This is an essay on harm minimization that aims to provide relevant information based on three pillars of harm minimization that are demand reduction, harm reduction and supply reduction. These three pillars are the basis of harm reduction that helps in making improvements in the lives of drug consumers.

In Australia, the use of “alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs” is one of the major causes of preventable diseases and higher rates of illness. The use of “alcohol, tobacco and other drugs” has increased in Australia by the population and this has caused non- shifting rates of the illness in this country (Midford et al., 2014). The rates of “alcohol, tobacco and other drugs use”, consumption and availability are higher in Australis so this demands for a need of treatment for a vulnerable population. Harm minimization is the strategy to reduce the impact of “alcohol, tobacco and other drugs” among the people of Australia. “It mainly works to reduce the adverse health impacts, social impacts and economic impacts of the drug use on the communities, families and individuals”.

Drug users may harm communities and individuals. Harm reduction is the strategy of health promotion that helps in preventing the harmful effects of drug use. “The National Drug Strategy” is a guiding document in Australia that sets the priorities for the people who uses alcohol, drugs and tobacco products (Diestelkamp et al., 2019). The strategy given by “The National Drug Strategy is the harm minimization that maintains a perfect balance among effective demand, supply and harm reduction” so that the vulnerable population can be protected. This approach considers the social, health and economic consequence of alcohol and other drugs on the communities and individuals as a whole. It is one of the important policies in Australia that states that the use of drugs bet it illicit or licit is an inevitable part of society.

The “alcohol, tobacco and the use of the illicit drugs” involves a range of harm that requires a range of approaches to respond to these harms. This is a public health model that aims to address the adverse health effects that are caused by the use of tobacco and alcohol. It not only addresses the adverse health impacts but also the social impacts and economic impacts that the use of illicit drugs and alcohol have on the people of communities (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017). This mainly works for adults with the issue of substance use problem for whom the abstinence was not feasible. This public health strategy is directed to reduce the harms that are associated with certain behaviours because of the use of tobacco and alcohol. In recent times, it was recognized that among the people with drug addiction, the abstinence was not a realistic goal (Sharma, Meruk, Bell, Ford & Gartner, 2018).

This is a successful approach in reducing the morbidity and mortality that is associated with risky health behaviour. One of such examples includes the decrease in HIV patients in Australia after the implementation of rules of a needle- exchange programs (Zgambo, Kalembo & Mbakaya, 2018). The use of alcohol ingestion presents the potential for intoxication and overdosing and it promotes aggressive behaviour that may or may not be associated with unwanted sexual advance. Many people especially the young population get into unwanted sexual intercourse because of the usage of drugs and alcohol (Midford et al., 2018).

The three pillars of harm minimization facilitate a balanced approach that are “demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction”.

“The demand reduction aims to prevent the uptake or delay of the onset use of illicit drugs”, tobacco and alcohol to reduce the misuse of these substances among the people different communities. This pillar helps in supporting the people to recover faster and also to prevent them from the first use of illicit substances. The multi-determined behaviour of the use of alcohol, drugs and tobacco are a result of psychological and environmental factors. These factors include peer pressure, excessive availability and difficult life situations (Moore, McKee & Daube, 2016).

This pillar helps in providing the strategies to delay the first use because the earlier a person commences use, the greater is the risk of harm. There are adverse health impacts which include the harm to both physical and mental health like it may become the cause of HIV, some psychological disorders and so on. It reduces the harmful consumption levels which takes place over time and there are various individual risk factors like age and other health conditions which can increase the risk of health conditions. This approach also makes an effort for long term recovery of the people by enhancing their quality of life. The drug substances availability and accessibility are reduced and also addresses the social, health and economic determinants of the use.

The second pillar is supply reduction that aims to restrict the supply of illicit substances so that they are not easily available and accessible by the people. The harm at community and individual levels can be reduced by having control over who all are using and when are they using. This pillar puts age restrictions, restrictions of the retailer and wholesales and border control are some of its effective strategies. In Australia, alcohol is highly affordable by large mass and is also available easily which increases the risk of harm among the users because liquor licenses are increasing around the country. The low availability and high prices will also help in improving the economic determinants which will have a positive impact on the economic aspect of people’s life. The regulations can be enforced and new restrictions can be introduced to stop the misuse of “alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs”. The regulation supplies involve ensuring pharmaceutical substances and the precursors to be available for legal use and not for the misuse that is not for diverted illicit uses.

The third pillar of harm minimization approach is harm reduction in which the strategy is designed for identification of the highly specific risks that are the result of illicit drug uses. The social relationships of the drug user are also affected so this strategy is specially designed to encourage the safe behaviour of the person who is affected with the habit of excessive alcohol intake (O’ Keefe et al., 2020). This strategy of harm reduction contributes to reducing health and social inequalities among the people who intake “alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs daily”. It aims to facilitate the changes in environmental settings like making smoke- free areas, making safe disposal of the needles and syringes mandatory. In Australia, the laws and policies related to drink and drive so that people do not self- harm and harm others while they are intoxicated (Groves, 2018).

These three pillars together make a perfect balance in the approach of harm minimization. These are the strategies for facilitating the environmental changes, health-related changes that will bring the improvement in economic, social and health impacts of “alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use”. There is a need for implementation of stringent rules and policies by the National Drug Safety system so that the harm caused by these people can be addressed at larger levels like at the country level. The harm caused to individuals and communities can be best addressed using three pillars of harm minimization (Proudfoot, 2019). The children can be protected from the habit of substance abuse and the illicit drug use and adverse health impacts like the spread of infectious diseases like a blood-borne virus can also be prevented among the people of the community. The strong association of the health professionals and law enforcement is central to this approach of harm minimization.

The conclusion drawn is that the three pillars that are “demand reduction, supply reduction and harm reduction” are the perfect balance of harm minimization approach. This has a positive impact in protecting the people from adverse health impacts and the social and economic inequalities that takes place with the use of “alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs”. This has become a major concern in Australia because of the increased rate of people using illegal substances thus the approach of harm minimization is effective. This is a nationally agreed goal to minimize the harm that is caused because of “alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug” use is best addressed by the implementation of harm minimization approach. This not only prevents the people from using such substances but also address the people who are using it by supporting their recovery.


Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National Drug Strategy 2017- 2026. Retrieved from https://www.hcasa.asn.au/documents/555-national-drug-strategy-2017-2026/file

Diestelkamp, S., Wartberg, L., Kaess, M., Bauer, S., Rummel-Kluge, C., Becker, K., & Arnaud, N. (2019). Effectiveness of a web-based screening and brief intervention with weekly text-message-initiated individualised prompts for reducing risky alcohol use among teenagers: study protocol of a randomised controlled trial within the ProHEAD consortium. Trials, 20(1), 73.

Eaton, D. L., Kwan, L. Y., Stratton, K., & National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2018). Harm Reduction. In Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. United States: National Academies Press (US).

Groves, A. (2018). ‘Worth the test?’Pragmatism, pill testing and drug policy in Australia. Harm Reduction Journal, 15(1), 12.

Midford, R., Cahill, H., Lester, L., Ramsden, R., Foxcroft, D., & Venning, L. (2018). Alcohol prevention for school students: Results from a 1-year follow up of a cluster-randomised controlled trial of harm minimisation school drug education. Drugs: Education, Prevention and Policy, 25(1), 88-96.

Midford, R., Mitchell, J., Lester, L., Cahill, H., Foxcroft, D., Ramsden, R., & Pose, M. (2014). Preventing alcohol harm: early results from a cluster randomised, controlled trial in Victoria, Australia of comprehensive harm minimisation school drug education. International Journal of Drug Policy, 25(1), 142-150.

Moore, M., McKee, M., & Daube, M. (2016). Harm reduction and e-cigarettes: Distorting the approach. Journal of Public Health Policy, 37(4), 403-410.

O’Keefe, D., Ritter, A., Stoove, M., Hughes, C., & Dietze, P. (2020). Harm reduction programs and policy in Australia: barriers and enablers to effective implementation. Sucht.

Proudfoot, J. (2019). The libidinal economy of revanchism: Illicit drugs, harm reduction, and the problem of enjoyment. Progress in Human Geography, 43(2), 214-234.

Sharma, R., Meurk, C., Bell, S., Ford, P., & Gartner, C. (2018). Australian mental health care practitioners’ practices and attitudes for encouraging smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction in smokers with severe mental illness. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 27(1), 247-257.

Sharma, R., Meurk, C., Bell, S., Ford, P., & Gartner, C. (2018). Australian mental health care practitioners’ practices and attitudes for encouraging smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction in smokers with severe mental illness. International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 27(1), 247-257.

Zgambo, M., Kalembo, F. W., & Mbakaya, B. C. (2018). Risky behaviours and their correlates among adolescents living with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic review. Reproductive Health, 15(1), 180.

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