Harm Reduction

1. Principles of Harm Reduction

"Harm reduction incorporates a spectrum of strategies that includes safer use, managed use, abstinence, meeting people who use drugs 'where they’re at,' and addressing conditions of use along with the use itself. Because harm reduction demands that interventions and policies designed to serve people who use drugs reflect specific individual and community needs, there is no universal definition of or formula for implementing harm reduction.

"However, National Harm Reduction Coalition considers the following principles central to harm reduction practice:

"Accepts, for better or worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them

"Understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe use to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others

"Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being — not necessarily cessation of all drug use — as the criteria for successful interventions and policies

"Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm

"Ensures that people who use drugs and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them

"Affirms people who use drugs (PWUD) themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use and seeks to empower PWUD to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use

"Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination, and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm

"Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger that can be associated with illicit drug use"

National Harm Reduction Coalition. Principles of Harm Reduction. Revised 2020. Last accessed Nov. 2, 2021.

2. Conclusion of National Institutes of Health Report to Congress on Overdose Prevention Centers

"A 2014 meta-analysis of 75 studies concluded that OPCs have largely fulfilled their initial objectives;39 the implementation of new OPCs in places with high rates of IDU and its associated harms appears to be supported by the existing evidence.39 Methodological caveats notwithstanding, drug use supervision and overdose management have the potential to provide health benefits to at-risk PWID as well as economic advantages to the larger community. The preponderance of the evidence suggests these sites are able to provide sterile equipment, overdose reversal, and linkage to medical care for addiction, in the virtual absence of significant direct risks like increases in drug use, drug sales, or crime. OPCs may represent a novel way of addressing some of the many challenges presented by the overdose crisis, and they could contribute to reduced morbidity and mortality, and improved public health.

"Based on the above considerations, there is a clear need for more rigorous research and evaluation of OPCs. Given the amount and quality of the existing data, it may be prudent to consider the American Medical Association’s recommendation of developing and implementing OPC pilot programs in the United States designed, monitored, and evaluated to generate locality-relevant data to inform policymakers on the feasibility and effectiveness of OPCs in reducing harms and health care costs related to IDU.94

National Institutes of Health. Report to Congress: Overdose Prevention Centers. Washington, DC: Dept. of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse. Nov. 2021.

3. Impact of safe consumption facilities on individual and community outcomes

"Our review found at the individual-level that SCFs were efficacious in reducing drug use related infection and disease transmission, enhancing access to addiction and other health services, and reducing the risk of non-fatal overdoses, and were not associated with a significant increase in drug use. These findings challenge the notion that SCFs may perpetuate substance use and lead to increased use among PWID. With regard to non-fatal overdose, the evidence over the past ten years have been largely been qualitative and would benefit from the use of quantitative methods that help to approximate causality. For example, the use of a propensity score modeling may help to determine the effectiveness of SCFs for individual-level outcomes based on observational or cross-sectional data (Hullsiek and Louis, 2002). Future studies may also want to consider the use of comparison groups or cities to examine the different factors influencing the effectiveness of SCFs. Additionally, we found emerging evidence that SCFs provide PWID with a sense of community that may support their overall wellbeing, thereby increasing their chances of accessing addiction treatment services. However, this evidence came qualitative studies (Rance and Fraser, 2011; Jozaghi and Andresen, 2013; Davidson et al., 2018; Kerman et al., 2020), and provides a future direction for research examining the impact of SCFs. Future quantitative studies may want to include a validated measure of wellbeing and sense of belonging. In particular, longitudinal studies should examine the degree to which a sense of belonging and having a supportive community may play a role in injection cessation and help-seeking behaviors for SCF attenders. At the community level, the evidence shows that SCFs were not associated with an increased rate of drug-related crime, and were linked to a decrease use of other costly public services (e.g. ambulance transport to hospital following an overdose). However, this evidence is still growing and requires additional research that accounts for other cofounding relationships using a longitudinal, inferential research design. Furthermore, we found that SCFs were associated with a reduction in public disorder, including less public disposal of syringes and use in public spaces. Future research should consider the gathering information from multiple sources (e.g. community members, service providers, police services) to examine the impact of SCFs on the public. Finally, there appear to be significant cost-benefits associated with SCFs, yet all of these studies have focused on the benefits related to the reduction of infectious disease transmission and injection-related death. Future studies should consider additional benefits related to the families of SCF attenders and reduction in community costs associated with decrease in public disorder."

Sarah J. Dow-Fleisner, Arielle Lomness, Lucía Woolgar, Impact of safe consumption facilities on individual and community outcomes: A scoping review of the past decade of research, Emerging Trends in Drugs, Addictions, and Health, Volume 2, 2022, 100046, ISSN 2667-1182, doi.org/10.1016/j.etdah.2022.100046.

4. Drug Checking Services

"A public health intervention operating for more than 50 years, drug checking services (DCS) allow the public to submit drug samples from unregulated drug markets (i.e. illegal and legal drugs sold through criminal channels) for chemical analysis. DCS emerged across the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s during the rise of a psychedelic counterculture that championed the use of psychoactive substances to expand consciousness [1, 2]. DCS were later expanded in European settings throughout the 1990s, beginning in the Netherlands, primarily in response to the popularity of dance events and associated use of 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and other drugs [3, 4]. More recently, DCS have been implemented in Australasia, the Americas and the United Kingdom, often with an emphasis on preventing harms from new psychoactive substances (NPS), including synthetic opioids. A global review of DCS conducted in 2017 identified 31 services operating across 20 countries [5]. Notably, the contamination of unregulated drug markets with fentanyl and the resulting opioid overdose crisis has motivated the recent expansion of DCS in Canada [6] and the United States [7].

"DCS provide people who use drugs (PWUD) with information on the chemical composition of their drug samples to facilitate more informed decision-making [8]. While some analysis methods can be operated by PWUD, DCS typically offer tailored harm reduction advice with the provision of analysis results to PWUD [9]. By aggregating data on the composition of drug samples, DCS provide insight into trends in the unregulated drug supply and inform policymaking and harm reduction activities at the population level [10]. DCS can inform public health alerts [11] when drugs of concern are detected, thus offering potential benefits to the broader community of PWUD and service providers [12]. DCS differ globally in terms of their legality and degree of government support, as well as where and how samples are collected and analysed. Models include mobile services at events, fixed services where samples can be dropped off or mailed and the distribution of analysis methods for personal use, all of which employ a variety of technologies with differing benefits and drawbacks [8, 13, 14]."

Maghsoudi N, Tanguay J, Scarfone K, Rammohan I, Ziegler C, Werb D, et al. Drug checking services for people who use drugs: a systematic review. Addiction. 2021;1–13. doi.org/10.1111/add.15734

5. Injection Drug Use Globally and in North America

"Globally, there are nearly 15.6 million people (aged 15–64) who inject drugs (PWID), with an estimated 2.6 million PWID in North America (Degenhardt et al., 2017). Canada and the United States (US) have both seen significant increases in the rate of injection drug use, as well as a rise in the rate of infections and fatal overdose related to injection drug use (Jacka et al., 2020; Levitt et al., 2020). The risk of fatal overdose significantly increases when people inject drugs alone, and may be prevented with timely intervention (i.e. administration of naloxone, an overdose prevention medication) (Colledge et al., 2019). There is also an increased risk of disease transmission (e.g. HIV, hepatitis) and serious infections associated with injecting drugs, which are often related to using unsterile equipment, injecting in unhygienic settings, or rushed injections (Colledge et al., 2019). The increase in injection drug use and the risks associated with using alone, in unhygienic or unsupervised settings necessitate the need for services that support safe injection practices among PWID."

Sarah J. Dow-Fleisner, Arielle Lomness, Lucía Woolgar, Impact of safe consumption facilities on individual and community outcomes: A scoping review of the past decade of research, Emerging Trends in Drugs, Addictions, and Health, Volume 2, 2022, 100046, ISSN 2667-1182, doi.org/10.1016/j.etdah.2022.100046.

6. Harm Reduction Interventions Aim To Reduce The Negative Effects Of Health Behaviors

"Harm reduction refers to interventions aimed at reducing the negative effects of health behaviors without necessarily extinguishing the problematic health behaviors completely or permanently. Though the harm reduction model as we know it rose in prominence in the 1970s and 1980s in response to infectious diseases such as hepatitis B and HIV [1], its roots extend at least as far back as the early 1900s with narcotic maintenance clinics [2, 3]. In the context of substance use, harm reduction disentangles the notion that drug use equals harm and instead identifies the negative consequences of drug use as the target for intervention rather than drug use itself [4]. Harm reduction strategies include syringe exchange programs, safer injection facilities, overdose prevention programs and policies, and opioid substitution treatment. Harm reduction as an approach stands in opposition to the traditional medical model of addiction which labels any illicit substance use as abuse, as well as to the moral model, which labels drug use as wrong and therefore illegal [5]. While most often applied in treatment for illicit substance use, harm reduction is increasingly used in many different settings, with a variety of populations, and in instances where there is a desire to reduce the negative effects of legal/licit substances, such as in tobacco smoking reduction and e-cigarette substitution programs [6, 7], in programs to reduce the harms associated with alcohol [6, 8, 9], in interventions addressing eating disorders or domestic violence [10], or with people who exchange sex for drugs, money, or material goods [11,12,13]. Nevertheless, harm reduction has not been formally incorporated into the daily repertoires of healthcare providers who aim to improve health behaviors (e.g., physical activity, nutrition) among their patients."

Hawk M, Coulter RWS, Egan JE, et al. Harm reduction principles for healthcare settings. Harm Reduct J. 2017;14(1):70. Published 2017 Oct 24. doi:10.1186/s12954-017-0196-4

7. Drug Checking Services: Effects on Drug Use

"Studies found that DCS [Drug Consumption Services] influenced intended behaviour and, although less researched, enacted behaviour. Among studies of PWUD [People Who Use Drugs] in party settings (referred to as ‘partygoers’ in studies), greater intention to not use the analysed substance was consistently reported if analysis results were unexpected [33, 35, 40, 42, 43, 45, 48, 52] or ‘questionable’/‘suspicious’ [49–51]. For example, a cross-sectional study from Australia (n = 83) in 2018 found partygoers were more likely to change their intention to use when analysis results were unexpected [odds ratio (OR) = 2.63, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.85–8.16] [35], as did two cross-sectional studies from Portugal (n = 310, n = 100) in 2016 and 2014 [40, 43]. Similarly, other intended behaviour changes—such as using less of a substance or seeking more information about it—were more common among partygoers when analysis results from DCS suggested that substances were ‘questionable’/‘suspicious’ [49, 51].

"The proportion of participants reporting analysis results from DCS influenced their drug use varied by population and setting. Among partygoers, 16% of participants in the Netherlands in 1996 [29], 50% in Austria in 1997–99 [37] and 87% in New Zealand (n = 47) in 2018–19 [33] reported that analysis results impacted their drug use. A cross-sectional study in 2017 from the United States among people who inject drugs (n = 125) found 43% changed their behaviour, and this was more likely when fentanyl was detected [adjusted OR (aOR) = 5.08, 95% CI = 2.12–12.17] [22]. Qualitative and longitudinal studies of young PWUD (n = 81) in the United States in 2017 supported this finding, and found that fentanyl detection was associated with positive changes in overdose risk behaviours (i.e. using less, using with others, doing a test shot) [31, 34]. Overall, and in alignment with findings on intended drug use behaviour in response to ‘questionable’/‘suspicious’ analysis results, self-reported behaviour was more likely to change when analysis results detected fentanyl. Beyond individual analysis results, a repeated cross-sectional study from Colombia (n = 1533) in 2013 and 2016 examined the influence of alerts from DCS and found that a majority of partygoers reported an impact on their behaviour [36].

"Only one study linked intended behaviours to observed health outcomes for PWUD accessing DCS. A Canadian cross-sectional study of DCS at a supervised injection site (n = 1411) in 2016–17 found that people who inject drugs were more likely to report the intention to use a smaller quantity than usual when fentanyl was detected by DCS (OR = 9.36, 95% CI = 4.25–20.65) [41]. In turn, those intending to use a smaller quantity were found to be less likely to overdose (OR = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.18–0.89) and be administered naloxone (OR = 0.38, 95% CI = 0.15–0.96).

"Disposal of the analysed substance was observed [24, 26, 27, 32, 35] or self-reported [22, 31, 34] as an outcome of DCS in eight studies. Like other behaviours, disposal was more frequent when analysis results from DCS were unexpected [24, 27, 32, 52]."

Maghsoudi N, Tanguay J, Scarfone K, Rammohan I, Ziegler C, Werb D, et al. Drug checking services for people who use drugs: a systematic review. Addiction. 2021;1–13. doi.org/10.1111/add.15734

8. Clean Pipe Distribution and Reduced Health Concerns

"We observed that the increase in crack pipe distribution services coincided with a corresponding increase in the uptake of crack pipes obtained through health service points only. Further, rates of reporting health problems associated with crack smoking declined significantly after the crack pipe distribution program was implemented. In the multivariable analysis, compared to obtaining crack pipes through other non-health service sources only, obtaining pipes through health service points only was significantly and negatively associated with reporting health problems from smoking crack. These findings suggest that the recent expansion of crack pipe distributions in this setting has likely served to reduce health problems experienced by crack smokers, achieving the desired outcome of the program.

"While crack users are obtaining their safe crack smoking equipment from health service points, they may also be exposed to education around safer smoking techniques and practices, by being in direct contact with service providers in the community. This may also have the benefit of exposing drug users with no connections to health care to available providers in their area [27]. A previous study of an outreach-based crack smoking kit distribution service indicated that unsafe smoking practices such as using Brillo pads and sharing crack paraphernalia remained prevalent, even after the implementation of the service [10], suggesting the importance of placing such service in a continuum of broader health service system and ensuring the availability of smoking kits to reduce risky smoking behaviours."

Prangnell, A., Dong, H., Daly, P. et al. Declining rates of health problems associated with crack smoking during the expansion of crack pipe distribution in Vancouver, Canada. BMC Public Health 17, 163 (2017). doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4099-9.

9. Provision of Safe Smoking Equipment Reduces Negative Health Consequences

"Our findings of a reduction of health problems, are consistent with harm reduction programs for people who inject drugs [19], including needle exchange programs and supervised injection sites, where they are effective in reducing overall negative health consequences. By providing users with high-quality smoking equipment and reducing the dependence on unsafe equipment, the unintended negative consequences, including exploding pipes, burns, and inhaling brillo fragments, are further reduced."

Prangnell, A., Dong, H., Daly, P. et al. Declining rates of health problems associated with crack smoking during the expansion of crack pipe distribution in Vancouver, Canada. BMC Public Health 17, 163 (2017). doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4099-9.

10. Data on First Two Months of Operation of First Legally Authorized Supervised Consumption Sites in the US

"Between November 30, 2021, and January 31, 2022, 613 individuals used OPC services 5975 times across 2 sites. Most individuals identified as male (78.0%), and 55.3% identified as Hispanic, Latino, or Latina. The mean (range) age was 42.5 (18-71) years. A plurality of individuals (36.9%) reported being street homeless. Fewer than one-fifth of individuals (17.8%) were living in their own rooms or apartments (Table).

"In self-reported data, the drug most commonly used across 2 sites was heroin or fentanyl (73.7%) and the most frequent route of drug administration at the OPC was injection (65.0%). Among all participants, 75.9% reported that they would have used their drugs in a public or semipublic location if OPC services had not been available (Figure).

"During the first 2 months of OPC operation, trained staff responded 125 times to mitigate overdose risk. In response to opioid-involved symptoms of overdose, naloxone was administered 19 times and oxygen 35 times, while respiration or blood oxygen levels were monitored 26 times. In response to stimulant-involved symptoms of overdose (also known as overamping), staff intervened 45 times to provide hydration, cooling, and de-escalation as needed. Emergency medical services responded 5 times, and participants were transported to emergency departments 3 times. No fatal overdoses occurred in OPCs or among individuals transported to hospitals.

"More than half of individuals using OPC services (52.5%) received additional support during their visit. This included, but was not limited to naloxone distribution, counseling, hepatitis C testing, medical care, and holistic services (eg, auricular acupuncture)."

Harocopos A, Gibson BE, Saha N, et al. First 2 Months of Operation at First Publicly Recognized Overdose Prevention Centers in US. JAMA Network Open. 2022;5(7):e2222149. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.22149

11. Supervised Inhalation Facilities

"Supervised inhalation rooms (SIR) have the potential to minimise the aforementioned barriers to care and harms associated with crack cocaine smoking [12,21]. Modelled after supervised injection facilities, SIRs are regulated environments in which people can smoke pre-obtained drugs with sterile equipment under the supervision of nurses or other trained staff [22]. These facilities aim to reduce high-risk drug use practices and blood-borne infections, increase contact between PWUD and health and social services, and improve public order through reductions in public drug use [23]. To date, SIRs have been implemented in seven countries: Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain and France [24–26]. In contrast with the significant evidence of the health and community benefits of supervised injection sites, rigorous evaluation of the specific outcomes of SIRs is lacking [24,27]. However, it is plausible that many of the demonstrated health benefits associated with supervised injection sites could extend to SIRs, with available evidence suggesting that SIRs have potential to improve public order, connect PWUD with health and social services, and reduce drug-related harms [11,25]."

Cortina, S., Kennedy, M. C., Dong, H., Fairbairn, N., Hayashi, K., Milloy, M. J., & Kerr, T. (2018). Willingness to use an in-hospital supervised inhalation room among people who smoke crack cocaine in Vancouver, Canada. Drug and alcohol review, 37(5), 645–652. doi.org/10.1111/dar.12815

12. Rhode Island Becomes First State in US to Approve Legal Establishment of Overdose Prevention Sites

"Gov. Dan McKee has signed legislation introduced by Majority Floor Manager John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth) and Sen. Joshua Miller (D-Dist. 28, Cranston, Providence) that authorizes a two-year pilot program to prevent drug overdoses through the establishment of harm reduction centers, which are a community-based resource for health screening, disease prevention and recovery assistance where persons may safely consume pre-obtained substances.

"The law (2021-H 5245A, 2021-S 0016B) authorizes facilities where people may safely consume those substances under the supervision of health care professionals. It requires the approval of the city or town council of any municipality where the center would operate."

State of Rhode Island General Assembly. Harm reduction center pilot program to combat overdose deaths becomes law. News Release, July 7, 2021.

13. Quality Data Needed To Inform Efforts For Implementation Of Appropriate Services

"According to the latest report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), an estimated 11.3 million people inject drugs globally, while HIV prevalence is estimated to be 12.6% and hepatitis C prevalence 48.5% among this population. However, while 179 of 206 countries report some injecting drug use, 110 countries and territories worldwide have no data on its prevalence. This data gap highlights the need for more and higher quality data to inform our efforts to implement appropriate harm reduction services that can address public health issues, including HIV and hepatitis C, soft tissue infections, and overdose."

Harm Reduction International (2020). Global State of Harm Reduction 2020. London: Harm Reduction International.

14. New York City Opens First Legally Authorized Safe Consumption Sites In US

On November 30, 2021, the Office of the Mayor of the City of New York announced that "the first publicly recognized Overdose Prevention Center (OPC) services in the nation have commenced in New York City. OPCs are an extension of existing harm reduction services and will be co-located with previously established syringe service providers."

According to the release:
"OPCs, also referred to as supervised consumption sites or facilities, are safe places where people who use drugs can receive medical care and be connected to treatment and social services. OPC services are proven to prevent overdose deaths, and are in use in jurisdictions around the world. There has never been an overdose death in any OPC. A Health Department feasibility study found that OPCs in New York City would save up to 130 lives a year.

"Additionally, OPCs are a benefit to their surrounding communities, reducing public drug use and syringe litter. Other places with OPCs have not seen an increase in crime, even over many years.

"OPCs will be in communities based on health need and depth of program experience. A host of City agencies will run joint operations focused on addressing street conditions across the City, and we will include an increased focus on the areas surrounding the OPCs as they open."

Office of the Mayor of the City of New York, "Mayor de Blasio Announces Nation's First Overdose Prevention Center Services to Open in New York City," City of New York, NY, Nov. 30, 2021.

15. Increased Uptake of Harm Reduction Interventions Globally

"The period from 2020 to 2022 has seen increased uptake of harm reduction interventions. For the first time since 2014, the Global State of Harm Reduction has found an increase in the number of countries implementing key harm reduction services.

"This growth has been driven by new needle and syringe programmes (NSPs) opening in five African countries as well as four new countries having officially sanctioned drug consumption rooms (DCRs).a This includes a site in Mexico that had been operating without formal approval since 2018 but now has approval from local authorities. Three countries have introduced opioid agonist therapy (OAT) for the first time.

"No country has stopped the implementation of NSP, OAT [Opiate Assisted Treatment] or DCRs since 2020."

Harm Reduction International (2022). Global State of Harm Reduction 2022.

16. Drug Safety Testing as a Public Health Service

"Drug safety testing (drug checking) is a public health service whereby service users receive test results for a substance of concern submitted for forensic analysis as part of a harm reduction consultation.12-14 Testing of submitted samples may be conducted onsite in rapid realtime as part of an integrated testing service, or elsewhere by a partner laboratory. Whilst these services vary widely in terms of types of consultations, forensic analyses, staffing, funding, waiting times, whether community or event-based, static or mobile, permanent or temporary, and whether the testing service is integrated or split into individual components, their shared core aim is harm reduction and their shared core service characteristic is direct user engagement. The rationale for these services is that drug-related harm can arise from the consumption of illicit psychoactive substances of unknown content and strength. Therefore, if testing services share results and other relevant information directly with service users, and potentially also other interested parties such as wider drug using communities and support services, they can communicate the risks associated with consuming that substance and enhance users' ability to make educated and informed decisions to reduce or avert future harm, protect their health and reduce the burden on health services. For stakeholders and support services, testing provides an opportunity to monitor trends in illegal drug markets and associated harms, and for alerts to be issued that are timely and accurately targeted to the appropriate drug using communities by utilising information that links composition of individual samples with what they were sold as, a distinct added value of drug safety testing.14,15 A global audit16 identified 31 such drug safety testing programmes operated by 29 organisations in 20 countries at that time, with the largest and longest standing being the Dutch Drugs Information Monitoring System,17-19 and more services have started operating since that audit."

Measham F. (2020). City checking: Piloting the UK's first community-based drug safety testing (drug checking) service in 2 city centres. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 86(3), 420–428. doi.org/10.1111/bcp.14231

17. Structural Barriers To Effective Harm Reduction Implementation

"Overarching structural problems also negatively affect access to services. Criminalisation, racism and discrimination against Indigenous, Black and brown people results in low household incomes, unemployment, food insecurity, poor housing and lower levels of education. This, in turn, results not only in worse health outcomes for these communities but also in people from these communities disengaging or actively avoiding health services.

"Women who use drugs are still frequently overlooked despite the complex harms, stigmatisation and structural violence they face. A substantial increase in gender-sensitive services is necessary to appropriately address their needs.

"For all people who use drugs, stigma and discrimination are public health issues creating barriers precisely where more support is needed. Harm reduction services are equipped to address these gaps, as non-judgmental, communitybased service delivery is among the core principles of harm reduction."

Harm Reduction International (2020). Global State of Harm Reduction 2020. London: Harm Reduction International.

18. Needle And Syringe Service Programs Worldwide

"As of 2020, 86 countries globally have at least one NSP [Needle and Syringe Program], though on the ground this has meant NSP closures and openings in several countries since 2018. Algeria opened NSPs in the Middle East and North Africa region, but in Palestine and Jordan, NSPs stopped completely; in Asia, NSPs closed in Mongolia; in sub-Saharan Africa, NSPs opened in Benin, Nigeria and Sierra Leone, while in Uganda NSPs ceased to operate. Eurasia, North America, Oceania and Western Europe remained the regions where almost all countries with reported injecting drug use implemented NSPs.[1]

"The availability of NSPs, however, does not ensure adequate coverage and accessibility. There is a large disparity in NSP implementation globally. While NSPs in Australia distribute almost 700 syringes per person who injects drugs per year, in Benin in sub-Saharan Africa, only ten syringes are given in a month to a client visiting the programme.2 In Macau, Asia, the number of NSPs has decreased since 2018, and only one NSP is still open. While NSPs are available in the majority of countries in Eurasia, there are several countries where coverage is very limited as services are implemented solely on a volunteer basis.[3,4] New estimates from India suggest that just 35 syringes (down from 250) are distributed per person who injects drugs, despite an increase in the number of NSP sites in the country. Coverage could also vary within a country. In Western Europe, for example, the coverage of NSPs in urban areas is sufficient and there are no major barriers in access, but rural areas have less coverage in many countries (e.g. Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Portugal).[5–9] Rural populations are also underserved in both the United States and Canada, and an uneven geographical distribution of NSPs is a problem in Australia and New Zealand.[10,11]"

Harm Reduction International (2020). Global State of Harm Reduction 2020. London: Harm Reduction International.

19. Stigma And Discrimination Hinder Access To Harm Reduction Services

"Stigma and discrimination against people who inject drugs continue to exist and hinder service access in all contexts,[12–15] [16] affecting organisations implementing NSPs. In South Africa, for example, one NSP was closed in 2018 due to concerns of insufficient stakeholder consultation and the systems available for waste management.[17] Though the service was reinstated in late June 2020, programme staff have yet to reach the previous cohort of clients that had accessed the service before its closure.[18]

"In addition to geographical gaps and stigmatisation of people who inject drugs, there are groups of people who inject drugs that experience barriers to access. The lack of appropriate, gender-specific programmes for women who use drugs is a recurring issue throughout most regions. Furthermore, the needs of Indigenous people are not appropriately met in Oceania,[10,11] and there are reports of migrants who inject drugs facing barriers to accessing harm reduction services in Western Europe.[6,9,19] NSP provision for people who use stimulants is suboptimal in many regions despite the risks involved. In Western Europe, for example, stimulant injecting has been associated with local HIV outbreaks in five countries in the past five years.[20–22]"

Harm Reduction International (2020). Global State of Harm Reduction 2020. London: Harm Reduction International.

20. Few Stimulant-Specific Harm Reduction Responses Implemented Globally

"Few stimulant-specific harm reduction responses are implemented globally. Though NSPs and drug consumption rooms (DCRs) can be accessed by people who use stimulants, existing harm reduction services might not always be adequate for their needs.[34] For example, stimulant use is associated with more frequent injection than opioids, but limits in NSPs on the number of syringes that can be acquired at any one time represent a particular barrier for those injecting stimulants. Stimulants are also more likely to be smoked or inhaled than opioids, but not all DCRs permit inhalation on premises, and smoking equipment is rarely distributed. However, safer smoking kits for crack cocaine, cocaine paste and ATS are distributed in several territories, including Portugal[5][35] and harm reduction programmes for people who use non-injectable cocaine derivatives are in place in several countries in Latin America. There have been promising pilot programmes in Asia focusing on people who use methamphetamine, including outreach programmes distributing safer smoking kits, plastic straws, harm reduction education, and access to testing and treatment for HIV, hepatitis C, TB and other sexually transmitted diseases (see page 75 in Asia Chapter 2.1).

"Drug checking (services that enable people to voluntarily get the contents of their drugs analysed) is an important harm reduction intervention for people who use stimulants. These services are implemented in at least nine countries in Western Europe3, are available in the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and are increasingly available in Latin America4. Eight countries in Eurasia5 have some form of drug checking services through distribution of reagent test kits at music festivals and nightlife settings. Other methods of drug checking include the use of mobile testing equipment to determine the contents of what is sold using tiny samples of the product, allowing for identification of both drugs and contaminants. Though availability of drug checking is growing globally from a low baseline, implementation faces serious legal barriers in many countries as it involves handling controlled substances, and drug checking services often require formal exemption from drug laws in order to operate legally.

"No approved substitution therapy for ATS exists, although pharmacologically-assisted treatment with methylphenidate for ATS users was authorised by the government in Czechia during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in Canada, the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use released interim clinical guidance recommending the prescription of dexamphetamine and methylphenidate to people who use stimulants.[36]"

Harm Reduction International (2020). Global State of Harm Reduction 2020. London: Harm Reduction International.

21. Successful Operation of an Unsanctioned Supervised Consumption Site in the US

"In total, there were 10,514 injections and 33 opioid-involved overdoses over 5 years, all of which were reversed by naloxone administered by trained staff (Table 1). No person who overdosed was transferred to an outside medical institution, and there were no deaths. The number of overdoses increased over the years of operation, due partially to the number of injections increasing over the same period of time (Fig. S1 in the Supplementary Appendix). The types of drugs used at the site changed over the 5 years of operation, with a steady increase in the proportion of injections involving the combination of opioids and stimulants, from 5% in 2014 to 60% in 2019 (Fig. S2).

"Although this evaluation was limited to one city and one site that is unsanctioned, and therefore the findings cannot be generalized, our results suggest that implementing sanctioned safe consumption sites in the United States could reduce mortality from opioid-involved overdose. Sanctioning sites could allow persons to link to other medical and social services, including treatment for substance use, and facilitate rigorous evaluation of their implementation and effect on reducing problems such as public injection of drugs and improperly discarded syringes."

Kral, Alex H., Lambdin, Barrot H., Wenger, Lynn D., Davidson, Pete J. Evaluation of an Unsanctioned Safe Consumption Site in the United States. New England Journal of Medicine. July 8, 2020. 10.1056/NEJMc2015435.

22. Pipe Sharing and Disease Risk

"Crack users often use and share pipes made of various makeshift materials, including broken glass pipes, metal tubing, aluminum cans, car antennas, or glass ginseng bottles, all of which can cause cuts, sores, burns, and blisters in and around the user’s mouth (Faruque et al., 1996; Porter & Bonilla, 1993; Porter, Bonilla, & Drucker, 1997; Shannon, Kerr et al., 2008). A number of recent studies point to nonIDU equipment sharing as possible routes of infectious disease transmission (Fischer, Powis, Firestone-Cruz, Rudzinski, & Rehm, 2008; Macias et al., 2008; McMahon & Tortu, 2003; Roy et al., 2001; Shannon, Rusch et al. 2008: Tortu, Neaigus, McMahon, & Hagen, 2001). In a study of drug users with no history of drug injection, Tortu et al. (2004) found noninjection drug use equipment sharing to be a risk factor for HCV infection, suggesting that HCV transmission may occur through noninjection routes such as oral and intranasal drug use methods. This is particularly concerning given that HCV is almost 30 times more infective that HIV through blood contact (Sulkowski & Thomas, 2003)."

Ivsins, A., Roth, E., Benoit, C., & Fischer, B. (2013). Crack Pipe Sharing in Context: How Sociostructural Factors Shape Risk Practices among Noninjection Drug Users. Contemporary Drug Problems, 40(4), 481–503. doi.org/10.1177/009145091304000403

23. Drug Checking

"Results from samples expected to be stimulants were divergent between testing groups. Crystal methamphetamine samples tested using take-home drug checking were reported as fentanyl positive more often than on-site samples (27.6% vs. 5.2%). The same pattern was seen for cocaine samples tested using take-home drug checking (17.2% vs. 1.1%). However, the study was underpowered to evaluate equivalence between these testing groups. A small portion of the test strips (3.8%) yielded an unclear or illegible response. It is unclear what the participants did in these cases, but the inclusion of multiple test strips would have allowed for repeat testing.

"Notably, when the results of take-home drug checking were stratified based on previous experience with fentanyl test strips, there was a trend towards a smaller difference between the results of take-home drug checking and on-site drug checking. For opioids, when only results from those who were using fentanyl test strips for the first time were included, there was a difference of 1.6% between take-home drug checking and on-site drug checking. This difference was reduced to 0.6% when only including samples from those who had self-reported prior experience with using fentanyl test strips. Similar results were seen for crystal methamphetamine (28.9% to 15.2%) and cocaine (28.3% to 7.8%)."

Klaire, S., Janssen, R. M., Olson, K., Bridgeman, J., Korol, E. E., Chu, T., Ghafari, C., Sabeti, S., Buxton, J. A., & Lysyshyn, M. (2022). Take-home drug checking as a novel harm reduction strategy in British Columbia, Canada. The International journal on drug policy, 106, 103741. doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103741

24. Drug Checking Study In Vancouver, BC

"Based on our findings, distributed fentanyl test strips would be reliable for the testing of samples identified as opioids and should be more widely distributed. There is growing evidence that fentanyl test strips may help prevent overdose when included with other evidence-based strategies (Peiper, 2019). Other informal techniques such as visual inspection of a substance have been applied by PWUD, but may not be effective in substances that contain traces of fentanyl (Peiper et al., 2019). Our study situated fentanyl test strips within sites that provide naloxone kits, drug use supplies such as syringes, supervised consumption of substances, and drug checking using both test strips and more sophisticated technologies. In contrast to the potential for behaviour change from drug checking results, analysis of several cohort studies within Vancouver during the period of increasing fentanyl contamination in late 2016 showed that a majority of PWUD did not change their drug use behaviours nor translate the knowledge of a changing drug supply to an increased risk of overdose (Brar et al., 2020; Moallef et al., 2019). These findings indicate the need for targeted education and harm reduction interventions for those at risk. Distribution of testing supplies provides an opportunity for further engagement. In BC, an expansion of this pilot program, including continuation at sites included in this evaluation, has occurred to distribute fentanyl test strips labelled with instructions for use. Notably, the described positive behaviour changes rely on an individual possessing knowledge around safer ways to use substances, including knowledge around using a small amount (“test dosing”) and using with others or not alone to avoid overdose and allow for naloxone administration. Furthermore, participants identified using at an OPS/SCS as a potential behaviour, which necessitates that these services exist. Our findings around behaviour change in response to a positive fentanyl result underscore the need for comprehensive harm reduction services and education."

Klaire, S., Janssen, R. M., Olson, K., Bridgeman, J., Korol, E. E., Chu, T., Ghafari, C., Sabeti, S., Buxton, J. A., & Lysyshyn, M. (2022). Take-home drug checking as a novel harm reduction strategy in British Columbia, Canada. The International journal on drug policy, 106, 103741. doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103741

25. City Checking: Community-Based Drug Safety Testing

"These pilots suggest that community-based drug safety testing can provide, first, engagement with more diverse drug–using communities than event-based testing—in terms of demographics, drugs of choice and risk taking behaviours—and therefore potentially can be more inclusive and impactful across drug–using communities including with marginalised groups. Second, there is the potential benefit of issuing proactive alerts for substances of concern in local drug markets ahead of specific leisure events, as happened with a mis-sold ketamine analogue identified in this study. Third, community testing can benefit from accessing fixed site laboratory facilities (in this case, a university chemistry department) to complement the speed and convenience of mobile laboratories with potentially greater analytical capabilities and trialling of new technological developments.

"These benefits cannot be presumed, however. The community pilots highlighted that service design characteristics and operational variations such as venue, day of week, prior publicity and outreach activities all can influence outcomes. Moving to a neutral central building attracted larger numbers and a greater diversity of service users as well as building trust with new service user groups, with drugs outreach staff further enhancing engagement with more marginalised drug using communities."

Measham F. (2020). City checking: Piloting the UK's first community-based drug safety testing (drug checking) service in 2 city centres. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 86(3), 420–428. doi.org/10.1111/bcp.14231

26. Child-Centered Harm Reduction

"This term, which we hope can over time be employed as a keyword in the literature, is intended to foreground children under the age of majority and for whom child rights laws apply in harm reduction theory, policy and practice. Child-centred harm reduction draws attention to the specificities of childhood in harm reduction work. Existing theories of harm reduction may need adaptation to the sociology and psychology of childhood, including the interconnected relationship between parent and child, family-centred care, and attention to children’s rights (see Maynard et al., 2019). Some interventions may not be practical, effective or ethical for children (Watson et al., 2015). Research on existing harm reduction services that work with minors – including those that may not strictly be permitted to do so - may place those children or the service at risk. Issues of consent, identity, agency and maturity, as well as the child’s ‘best interests’ may challenge the assumptions and premises upon which ‘low threshold’ harm reduction services are delivered (Barrett, Petersson, & Turner, 2022). Different legal and human rights standards are engaged, from drug laws to family law to child rights. Child protection laws may require duties of reporting that affect harm reduction service provision and research (ibid). In some cases both parent and child can be legal minors, leading to further challenges and complications regarding assessments of best interests. National, regional and international policy frameworks may need renewed scrutiny through a child-centred harm reduction lens (see for example Barrett, 2015).

"The term is not perfect. For example, ‘child’ may conjure the image of only very young children, when the majority of drug use would involve older adolescents. Few seventeen year-olds would refer to themselves as children. However, those under the age of 18 are legal minors in most contexts, and are ‘children’ for the purposes of child rights. Other terms, such as ‘youth harm reduction’ reproduce the problem of age ranges noted above, while ‘adolescent harm reduction’ omits younger children. ‘Adolescence’ can also extend beyond the age of majority. ‘Paediatric harm reduction’ was considered, but implied an overly medical approach.

"The word ‘centred’ is critical. Our view of child-centred harm reduction extends from neonates to adolescents, with all of the challenges and differing capacities and relationships that arise at these stages of development. Centring the child is key and draws our attention also, for example, to dependent children in adult harm reduction work. We believe that ‘child-centred’ focuses on the specificities of childhood in harm reduction and captures a holistic, rights-based, and person-centred approach."

Barrett, D., Stoicescu, C., Thumath, M., Maynard, E., Turner, R., Shirley-Beavan, S., Kurcevič, E., Petersson, F., Hasselgård-Rowe, J., Giacomello, C., Wåhlin, E., & Lines, R. (2022). Child-centred harm reduction. The International journal on drug policy, 109, 103857. Advance online publication. doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103857

27. Good Samaritan and Naloxone Access Laws Save Lives

"GAO found that 48 jurisdictions (47 states and D.C.) have enacted both Good Samaritan and Naloxone Access laws. Kansas, Texas and Wyoming do not have a Good Samaritan law for drug overdoses but have a Naloxone Access law. The five U.S. territories do not have either type of law. GAO also found that the laws vary. For example, Good Samaritan laws vary in the types of drug offenses that are exempt from prosecution and whether this immunity takes effect before an individual is arrested or charged, or after these events but before trial.

"GAO reviewed 17 studies that provide potential insights into the effectiveness of Good Samaritan laws in reducing overdose deaths or the factors that may contribute to a law’s effectiveness. GAO found that, despite some limitations, the findings collectively suggest a pattern of lower rates of opioid-related overdose deaths among states that have enacted Good Samaritan laws, both compared to death rates prior to a law’s enactment and death rates in states without such laws. In addition, studies found an increased likelihood of individuals calling 911 if they are aware of the laws. However, findings also suggest that awareness of Good Samaritan laws may vary substantially across jurisdictions among both law enforcement officers and the public, which could affect their willingness to call 911."

"Most States Have Good Samaritan Laws and Research Indicates They May Have Positive Effects," US General Accountability Office, March 2021, GAO-21-248.

28. Association of Opioid Overdose Laws with Opioid Use and Mortality

"• Naloxone access laws that ease restrictions on naloxone possession and distribution are associated with a 20% reduction overdose deaths among African-Americans.

"• Good Samaritan laws, providing immunity from prosecution for those calling emergency services, are associated with broad reductions in overdose deaths, reducing overdose deaths by 13% overall.

"• None of these harm reduction measures result in increase in opioid or heroin use.

"• These laws are effective at reducing overdose mortality without creating additional opioid use. Correspondingly, these measures should be considered an important part of the strategy used to address the opioid epidemic."

McClellan, Chandler, Lambdin, Barrot H., et al. Opioid-overdose laws association with opioid use and overdose mortality. Addictive Behaviors. March 19, 2018.

29. Harm Reduction and Web Outreach Work

"Our research demonstrates that a number of harm reduction-related needs among PWUD [People Who Use Drugs] can be met entirely through web outreach work, while some can only be partially met online. These findings are in line with the existing literature on online platforms bringing new opportunities to harm reduction services provision [18–20]. They also contribute to the growing amount of literature regarding the processes of web outreach work [22, 23] and bring new evidence on how various needs of PWUD are addressed by web outreach services.

"We identified a three-stage process of web outreach work. The process illustrates the benefits that PWUD gain from online harm reduction services provision without face-to-face contact with web outreach workers. An absence of requirement for physical presence of PWUD at a harm reduction organization facilitates greater level of anonymity in comparison with offline harm reduction services provision. In addition, the use of text messages brings greater convenience to PWUD, who do not feel comfortable with discussing drug use-related issues in person. These factors indicate that web outreach work helps to encourage harm reduction behaviors among PWUD who, otherwise, might not seek or have access to brick-and-mortar harm reduction services."

Davitadze, A., Meylakhs, P., Lakhov, A. et al. Harm reduction via online platforms for people who use drugs in Russia: a qualitative analysis of web outreach work. Harm Reduct J 17, 98 (2020). doi.org/10.1186/s12954-020-00452-6.

30. Harm Reduction Approach To Drug Policy

"Harm reduction is an influential approach to drug policy and practice that ‘encompasses interventions, programmes and policies that seek to reduce the health, social and economic harms of drug use’ (Rhodes & Hedrich, 2010 p. 19). While a universal definition is lacking, harm reduction is distinguished by its focus on incremental positive change regarding targeted harms, which neither presupposes nor precludes abstinence as a goal. NGOs further emphasise a commitment to human rights and social justice, necessitating the separation of drug use harms from drug policy harms, and highlighting the role of policy and legal frameworks as a driver of vulnerability (e.g. HRI, n.d; HRC, n.d). Harm reduction is a cornerstone of HIV and overdose prevention, endorsed by every relevant UN agency in this regard (United Nations, 2019). It is also increasingly influential for other forms of drug use and drug related harms. However, harm reduction has primarily developed around adult drug use, obscuring theoretical, practical, ethical and legal issues pertaining to children and adolescents under the age of majority – both relating to their own use and the effects of drug use among parents or within the family."

Barrett, D., Stoicescu, C., Thumath, M., Maynard, E., Turner, R., Shirley-Beavan, S., Kurcevič, E., Petersson, F., Hasselgård-Rowe, J., Giacomello, C., Wåhlin, E., & Lines, R. (2022). Child-centred harm reduction. The International journal on drug policy, 109, 103857. Advance online publication. doi.org/10.1016/j.drugpo.2022.103857

31. Incongruences Between Services Offered By Substance Use Programs and Their Clients

"Findings from our study illustrate that many substance use programs do not fit directly into a binary of “harm reduction” or “treatment.” Most of the participating programs in this study reported offering a spectrum of harm reduction and treatment services. Still, SSPs [Syringe Service Programs] were most likely to offer harm reduction services, MOUD [Medications for Opioid Use Disorder] programs were most likely to offer treatment services, and those characterized as offering both MOUD & SSPs were most likely to offer the broadest services. Program clients also did not fit into the supposed binary of “active drug use” vs. “abstinence.” In fact, of the clients who attended MOUD only programs, nearly three quarters reported using non-prescribed drugs in the past week, and more than half reported injecting drugs in the past week; these rates were similar to those reported by clients who attended combined MOUD & SSP programs. Meanwhile, more than 40% of those who attended SSP only programs reported attending some type of drug treatment service in the past month.

"Our results reveal some important incongruencies between services being offered by substance use programs and characteristics and behaviors reported by clients who attend such programs. For example, while three-quarters of MOUD program clients reported using non-prescribed drugs (one-quarter reported using opioids), only two-thirds of these programs offered overdose education or naloxone distribution and one-third offered fentanyl testing or test strips. This is highly concerning given the high prevalence of fentanyl in both the opioid and non-opioid illicit drug supplies [21] and may partly reflect the presence of policies that criminalize possession of fentanyl test strips in some of the sampled states [22]. Moreover, half of clients who attended MOUD programs without SSP or wound care actively injected drugs. While it is possible that these clients seek safe injection supplies elsewhere, a minority (14%) reported visiting an SSP in the past month.

"There were also discrepancies in services offered by SSPs relative to client-reported service utilization. Of clients recruited from SSPs without MOUD, 22% indicated receiving methadone and 8% reported receiving buprenorphine in the past month. This implies clients are either seeking these medications via other service providers or acquiring them on the street, which has been reported to often be easier than enrolling in formal treatment [9, 23, 24]. Roughly half of MOUD programs offered same-day treatment initiation. Additionally, SSP programs were reaching the highest risk population that with the greatest rates of active drug use. Yet, on average, these programs reported having the smallest number of staff and the least available treatment or social services relative to the other programs types. The limited workforce and services offered may reflect the limited budgets often used to operate these programs. Many harm reduction services operate independently from the medical system and are not eligible for insurance reimbursement. Additionally, programs have been historically banned from accessing federal and local funds for SSPs; programs have had to depend on scarce funds acquired a combination of small grants, individual donations, and charitable foundations [4, 25]. The Biden Administration’s 2021 American Rescue Act was the first federal action to allocate targeted funding toward harm reduction services and SSPs [25, 26]. While this was an important step to potentially help scale up these services, local and national resistance and stigma to these programs remains persistent (highlighted by the recent resistance to federal funding sterile pipes [27]). Continued efforts to combat ongoing stigma and political resistance to these programs are needed [25]."

Krawczyk N, Allen ST, Schneider KE, et al. Intersecting substance use treatment and harm reduction services: exploring the characteristics and service needs of a community-based sample of people who use drugs. Harm Reduct J. 2022;19(1):95. Published 2022 Aug 24. doi:10.1186/s12954-022-00676-8

32. Online Harm Reduction Service Provision

"Our analysis of the needs of PWUD [People Who Use Drugs] and services provided to them demonstrates two major functions performed by web outreach workers: 1. They can provide certain services completely online, and 2. They navigate clients within the organization in order to match the needs of the PWUD with a person who can address them. Our research on web outreach work indicates an increasing level of efficiency that comes from online provision of harm reduction services. Instead of traveling to a harm reduction facility, PWUD can contact the organization via an online platform. Furthermore, harm reduction services provided entirely online gain particular relevance amidst the COVID-19 pandemic when offline harm reduction organizations experienced new challenges to providing in-person outreach services.

"Our findings suggest that online harm reduction services provision can be improved in terms of accessibility and efficiency. A challenge for web outreach work, as described by informants, was the inability of workers to communicate with PWUD after hours. One possible solution is to automatize some processes with Telegram bots, as it was done with the cases of OD [Overdoses]. Currently, web outreach workers manually send information to PWUD. If automatized, then PWUD themselves could use a bot to get necessary information at any time of the day. However, not all services can be automatized with a bot; therefore, it may be necessary to employ some workers, who could reply to clients’ requests after hours. This is especially important in emergency situations, such as OD. Another way to develop provision of online harm reduction services is to increase their presence on darknet forums. Greater presence could potentially make online services accessible to more groups of PWUD, who request urgent help after hours and/or who do not use Telegram. Another obstacle in increasing accessibility of online harm reduction services was that some clients refused to continue communication with web outreach workers via the phone. More research is needed to explore the needs that PWUD have in such cases, identify the reasons why certain PWUD refuse to communicate via the phone, and explore how web outreach work can be provided in such instances."

Davitadze, A., Meylakhs, P., Lakhov, A. et al. Harm reduction via online platforms for people who use drugs in Russia: a qualitative analysis of web outreach work. Harm Reduct J 17, 98 (2020). doi.org/10.1186/s12954-020-00452-6.

33. Differences and Similarities Between Harm Reduction Programs and Substance Use Treatment Programs

"While cultural and structural differences continue to divide many substance use treatment and harm reduction services, the needs and goals of people who seek these two services may have always been much less distinctive. For example, many who attend substance use treatment continue to use drugs [5]. Similarly, many who attend harm reduction programs seek to engage in treatment at some points [6]. Indeed, clients of SSPs are approximately five times more likely to engage in treatment and three times more likely to stop using drugs than persons who do not access SSPs [7]. In recent decades, harm reduction and treatment goals have become increasingly blurred with the growing uptake of medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD). In particular, methadone and buprenorphine are used by some with a goal of abstaining from opioid use; for others, MOUD are used to help mitigate withdrawal and overdose risk without abstaining from drug use [8, 9].

"Despite this reality, programs that successfully combine treatment and harm reduction services and principles are often the exception rather than the rule [8, 10, 11]. Yet, the increasing severity of the opioid overdose crisis in North America and the rise in viral and bacterial infections among PWUD [12–14] have led to a recognition of the urgent need to utilize multiple approaches toward the joint goal of reducing drug-related harms [15]. In particular, concerns about the increasingly lethal opioid supply [16] have emphasized the need to use any available evidence-based strategies known to reduce opioid-related overdose mortality. These concerns have encouraged more treatment providers to incorporate harm reduction approaches (e.g., naloxone distribution and overdose education) [17], and harm reduction providers to integrate MOUD as a direct service [18]."

Krawczyk N, Allen ST, Schneider KE, et al. Intersecting substance use treatment and harm reduction services: exploring the characteristics and service needs of a community-based sample of people who use drugs. Harm Reduct J. 2022;19(1):95. Published 2022 Aug 24. doi:10.1186/s12954-022-00676-8

34. Creating A Person-Centered Substance Use Service System That Improves Health And Dignity

"Findings from this study demonstrate that in many ways, existing programs are not adequately meeting the service needs of or catering to the realities of PWUD. Creating a substance use service system that is truly person-centered and successful at improving health and dignity will necessitate moving away from the binary mentality of harm reduction vs. treatment to one which is better tailored to individual clients. This includes offering a continuum of co-located treatment, harm reduction, and social services that can meet individuals where they are. This would help facilitate access to life-saving services and greater socioeconomic stability [28, 29]. This may be particularly important for individuals with multiple vulnerabilities, as well as during emergencies—such as the COVID-19 pandemic—when minimizing travel and co-locating access to multiple health and social services is key [30]. In our study, programs that included both MOUD & SSP offered the greatest range of treatment and harm reduction services, including naloxone distribution, overdose prevention education, same-day treatment initiation, drop-in spaces, peer services/street outreach, and counseling services. However, these programs were the rarest in our sample of providers and remain largely under-resourced and at the periphery of the substance use service system. Moreover, such integrated models have been made possible by the ability to prescribe buprenorphine in non-traditional treatment settings [31]. Methadone, which may be the most effective and desirable MOUD option for some individuals, and used by many participants in our study, is still largely restricted to the opioid treatment program system bound by regulations on staffing, zoning, and hefty requirements for patients such as frequent urine drug screening [32, 33]. While there are some successful models of lower threshold methadone in other countries[34], scaling up methadone to meet needs of PWUD in the USA will require rethinking some of the core federal and state regulations, including expanding methadone availability beyond the opioid treatment program system [35]. It is important to note that most participating clients reported using drugs other than opioids; thus, integrating interventions for stimulant and other drug use should be central to efforts to better align programs with client behaviors."

Krawczyk N, Allen ST, Schneider KE, et al. Intersecting substance use treatment and harm reduction services: exploring the characteristics and service needs of a community-based sample of people who use drugs. Harm Reduct J. 2022;19(1):95. Published 2022 Aug 24. doi:10.1186/s12954-022-00676-8

35. Protections Offered by Good Samaritan Laws Vary By Jurisdiction

"Our analysis of the characteristics of the 48 Good Samaritan laws found that they differ in the protections they offer to individuals who call for medical assistance for an overdose victim. First, there is variation in whether criminal immunity—an exemption from prosecution—is offered and, if so, for which type of drug offense, such as possessing or delivering drugs in violation of an otherwise applicable drug law. Second, there is variation in when criminal immunity takes effect—the timing can be before an individual would otherwise be arrested and charged as a criminal defendant or after these events but before an individual is prosecuted.

"Finally, because a jurisdiction retains the power to prosecute individuals who do not have criminal immunity, some Good Samaritan laws offer either an affirmative defense at trial or a mitigating factor at sentencing, or both."

"Most States Have Good Samaritan Laws and Research Indicates They May Have Positive Effects," US General Accountability Office, March 2021, GAO-21-248.

36. Types Of Offenses Covered by Good Samaritan Laws

"Of the 47 laws that provide criminal immunity to individuals who call for medical assistance, 44 cover drug possession offenses. The other three laws (Iowa’s, South Carolina’s, and Vermont’s) cover both drug possession offenses as well as more serious drug delivery offenses, such as selling, dispensing, or possessing drugs with an intent to sell or dispense.25 The 47 laws vary in the specific drug possession and drug delivery offenses covered by criminal immunity (immunized offenses). At the broadest level, Vermont’s law provides immunity for any drug offense.26 In comparison, the other 46 laws limit immunity to a subset of drug offenses. For example, in regards to immunized drug possession offenses, Alabama’s law limits immunity to misdemeanor drug offenses, such as possession of marijuana for personal use, whereas Illinois’s law includes some felonies, such as possession of less than 3 grams of heroin or morphine.27 In regards to immunized drug delivery offenses, Iowa’s law provides immunity if the drugs were delivered without profit, while South Carolina’s law provides immunity if the drugs were delivered to the overdose victim."

"Most States Have Good Samaritan Laws and Research Indicates They May Have Positive Effects," US General Accountability Office, March 2021, GAO-21-248.