reduction programs provide public health-oriented, evidence-based, and
Surgeon General Report Endorses Harm Reduction
A landmark report on alcohol and other drugs released
today by the U.S. Surgeon General endorses harm reduction and specifically
refers to syringe access programs as a "important strategy." The
first ever report on the topic by the Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy also
highlights the role of harm reduction in meeting people 'where they're at' by
acknowledging that harm reduction programs meet the "needs of those
who are not yet ready to participate in treatment" and those "who
may not be ready to stop substance use – offering individuals strategies to
reduce risks while still using."
The report refers to problematic drug use as the countries most pressing
public health concern and cites that nearly 21 million Americans –
more than the number of people who have all types cancers combined – suffer
from alcohol and other drug dependence.
"These programs work with populations
who may not be ready to stop substance use – offering individuals strategies
to reduce risks while still using substances. Strategies include outreach and
education programs, needle/syringe exchange programs, overdose prevention
education, and access to naloxone to reverse potentially lethal opioid
overdose. These strategies are designed to reduce substance misuse and its
negative consequences for the users and those around them, such as
transmission of HIV and other infectious diseases. They also seek to help
individuals engage in treatment to reduce, manage, and stop their substance
use when appropriate."
The Surgeon General's
personal introduction to the report addresses drug-related stigma and he
personally states that "stigma has created an added burden of shame
that has made people... less likely to come forward and seek
Dr. Vivek Murthy's closing remarks in the preface of the landmark report echo
what Harm Reduction Coalition has been advocating for more than two decades:
"Above all, we can never forget that the faces of substance use
disorders are real people. They are a beloved family member, a friend, a
colleague, and ourselves."
Harm Reduction Coalition stands with the Surgeon General in calling for a public
health approach to substance use. This report will be vital for the harm
reduction community in our collective education and advocacy efforts for
years to come.