Writtle University College and ARU have merged. Writtle’s full range of college, degree, postgraduate and short courses will still be delivered on the Writtle campus. See our guide to finding Writtle information on this site.

Harm reduction

Morgan Rice

Faculty: Health, Medicine and Social Care
School: School of Nursing and Midwifery
Course: Adult Nursing BSc (Hons)
Category: Nursing and midwifery

22 March 2023

A topic I find particularly interesting within the nursing/healthcare field is harm reduction. Harm reduction is defined as policies and practices that try to reduce the harm that people do to themselves or others from their drug use.

Key things involved in harm reduction include things such as needle exchange services which people can bring their dirty needles so they can be safely disposed of in exchange for clean needs and syringes to use. This service aims to reduce the spread of diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV from the user but also from the general population also due to less needle littering occurring. Another scheme being used is drug consumption rooms. Drug consumption rooms are rooms in which people can take drugs whilst under the supervision of qualified health professionals, this is to ensure drug users are safe and can receive urgent medical attention if required.

This also opens up the opportunity for the healthcare professional to share vital information regarding drug use and resources available to users to help with their addiction. There is some criticism for harm reduction with many saying that it encourages the use of illicit drugs and normalises it and that as healthcare professionals we should not be ‘condoning’ dangerous health behaviours such as illicit drug us. However, I feel harm reduction is a public health duty due to it helping to protect some of the most vulnerable people within society so by helping to protect these people you may encourage them to seek help for their addiction. People are always going to take drugs, so it is important to be aware of this within your care. Illicit drug use isn’t advisable, but it is inevitable, so if you are able to help reduce some of the dangers surrounding this can help save someone's life or even just improve their quality of life.

Some key tips I found for safe drug use on drugwise.org.uk are:

  • If you are going to use drugs, do not use them alone and always tell someone else what it is you have taken.
  • Always use clean needles and do not share injecting equipment.
  • Begin by using a small amount e.g. a quarter of a pill and wait a couple of hours before taking more. Or Crush, Dab, Wait – i.e. crush up any pills, dab in a wet finger to taste and then wait an hour or two. This is particular important advice now that ecstasy tablets are being found that are much stronger than they used to be. See more on this here.
  • Don’t mix drugs with other drugs including alcohol or prescription medications.
  • When dancing, be sure to take breaks to cool down and drink small sips of water – but don’t drink more than a pint an hour.
  • Think about your surroundings and do not use in an unsafe place.
  • Never drive or use machinery after taking drugs.
  • Always get help if you are worried about a friend and give the medical professionals as much information as possible about the drug or drugs that were taken.
  • Place sleeping or unconscious friends in the recovery position.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.