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Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction

Harm Reduction Legal Project Resources

Communities across the United States are struggling with an epidemic of drug-related harm. Harm reduction programs can be critical to saving lives, but are often hindered by laws and policies that reflect an outdated, punitive-focused approach to drugs and individuals who use them. The Harm Reduction Legal Project addresses legal and policy barriers that hamper the establishment and scale-up of evidence-based harm reduction measures.


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Harm Reduction Legal Project

The United States remains in the grip of an unprecedented epidemic of drug-related harm. In 2017, over 70,000 Americans were killed by drug overdose, surpassing the number lost at the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis. Infections related to use of shared syringes have increased alongside the surge in opioid overdose deaths, with several states experiencing recent injection-related HIV outbreaks. Hepatitis C infections, which overwhelmingly result from use of shared syringes, have increased every year for more than a decade. Simultaneously, injection-related endocarditis has been increasing nationwide. Many of these deaths and infections are preventable via increased access to evidence-based harm reduction measures such as naloxone distribution, syringe access programs, and access to evidence-based substance use disorder treatment. Yet due to lack of understanding and stigma related to substance use disorder, many harm reduction services are often hindered by laws and policies that reflect an outdated, punitive-focused approach to drugs and individuals who use them.

The Network’s Harm Reduction Legal Project provides guidance and consultation to governmental and nongovernmental organizations as well as impacted individuals to assist them in navigating the often extremely confusing maze of existing laws and regulations that hamper harm reduction initiatives.

The Project also provides non-partisan, evidence-based publications and training regarding the state of laws impacting individuals who use drugs, individuals in recovery, and their communities, as well as research regarding the impact of those laws.

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