Harm reduction is a set of strategies that aim to reduce negative consequences of drug use, by mitigating the potential dangers and health risks. UNODC has significantly expanded its HIV/AIDS programme thanks to support from harm reduction-friendly donor countries, despite ambiguities on the issue within UN drug control agencies. There is a need for up-scaling of basic services for HIV/AIDS prevention and the 'frontline' of heroin prescription and drug consumption rooms.

  • Lessons learned from the SCORE project

    A document to support outreach and education related to safer crack use
    Safer Crack Outreach, Research, and Education (SCORE)
    June 2008

    The aim of this report is to provide key findings related to the SCORE project. It is our hope that the insights that we have gained may be of benefit to others engaged in similar initiatives and to ultimately improve the health of individuals who use crack. The SCORE project (Safer Crack Outreach, Research, and Education) grew out of the vision and hard work of the Safer Crack Use Coalition of Vancouver. Before the SCORE Project was funded, this coalition devoted much energy into raising awareness regarding the insufficient resources aimed at preventing the harms related to crack use.

    Download the report (PDF)

  • Human Rights, Health and Harm Reduction

    States’ Amnesia and Parallel Universes
    Keynote speech delivered by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, Professor Paul Hunt
    May 11, 2008

    ‘Human Rights, Health and Harm Reduction: States’ Amnesia and Parallel Universes’ is the transcript of a keynote speech delivered by Professor Paul Hunt (then UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health). The speech focused on human rights and drug policy and contained some of the strongest comments to date from a UN human rights expert both in favour of harm reduction and against drug policies at the international and national levels that violate the rights of people who use drugs.

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  • Police, Harm Reduction, and HIV

    International Harm Reduction Development Program (IHRD)
    April 2008

    Injecting drug users (IDUs) account for the largest share of HIV infections in China, Russia, Ukraine, Central Asia, and much of Southeast Asia. Harm reduction measures such as access to clean needles and drug treatment with methadone or buprenorphine have been proven to reduce HIV risk behaviors. Yet law enforcement officials in many countries harass drug users at drug treatment clinics and needle exchange points, confiscate their medications, or arrest them for possession of clean syringes. These police practices help fuel the HIV epidemic by driving drug users away from lifesaving care while doing little to stem drug use.

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  • The INCB on Harm Reduction

    Catching Up, or Holding Back?

    As in years past, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) highlights the problem of HIV epidemics fuelled by injection drug use in its 2007 annual report. The phrase harm reduction is used in the report without scare quotes but the Board cannot refrain from sounding cautionary notes.

  • Open letter to CND

    "We respectfully urge you to support syringe exchange, opiate substitution treatment and other harm reduction approaches demonstrated to reduce HIV risk; to affirm the human rights of drug users to health and health services; and to reject efforts to overrule science and tie the hands of those working on the front lines."

    In this open letter to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs, 334 organisations express their concern about U.S. efforts to force a UNODC retreat from support of syringe exchange and other measures proven to contain the spread of HIV among drug users.

  • Washington Post Editorial on UN and harm reduction

    The Bush administration is quietly extending a policy that undermines the global battle against AIDS. "The State Department's new leadership needs to end this bullying flat-earthism. It won't help President Bush's current effort to relaunch his image among allies. And it's almost certain to kill people."

  • UN: conflicting views on harm reduction

    Conflicting views and policies within the UN system on harm reduction have become a major concern. Consistency in messages is crucial especially where it concerns joint global programmes such as the efforts to slow down the HIV/AIDS epidemic; efforts in which harm reduction practices like needle exchange and substitution treatment play a pivotal role. Longer existing tensions reached a new peak after a meeting between the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, and US Assistent Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), Robert Charles, on November 10, 2004. At the meeting the US government - the biggest donor of UNODC - threatened Costa to cut funding to UNODC unless he assured that UNODC would abstain from any involvement in or expression of support for harm reduction in general, including the practice of needle exchange programmes.

  • Resources

    Other resources on the United Nations and Harm Reduction

  • “I inject less as I have easier access to pipes”

    Injecting, and sharing of crack-smoking materials, decline as safer crack-smoking resources are distributed
    Lynne Leonard, Emily DeRubeis, Linda Pelude, Emily Medd, Nick Birkett & Joyce Seto
    International Journal of Drug Policy
    May 2007

    Among injection drug users (IDUs) in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, prevalence rates of HIV (20.6 percent) and hepatitis C HCV (75.8 percent) are among the highest in Canada. Recent research evidence suggests the potential for HCV and HIV transmission through the multi-person use of crack-smoking implements. On the basis of this scientific evidence, in April 2005, Ottawa's needle exchange programme (NEP) commenced distributing glass stems, rubber mouthpieces, brass screens, chopsticks, lip balm and chewing gum to reduce the harms associated with smoking crack.

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  • 'Paco' Under Scrutiny

    The cocaine base paste market in the Southern Cone
    Transnational Institute (TNI)
    TNI Drugs & Conflict Debate Paper 14
    October 2006

    Based on two studies carried out in the cities of Buenos Aires and Montevideo, this report examines the origin, characteristics and impact of the explosive increase in cocaine base paste in urban areas. It also highlights the variety of products consumed in these cities and the substance known as crack that is consumed in Brazilian cities. The Brazilian experience with this consumption could serve as an example and a lesson for the Southern Cone.

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