Abstinence Not Required



Traditionally, in addiction treatment we have asked people to be ready for complete abstinence at the time they begin seeking help.  It is a requirement of any inpatient program and continued use is still taboo in the outpatient world as well.  Even medication-assisted treatment programs drug test you to ensure you aren’t using illicit drugs.

In recent years, however, the concept of harm reduction has become increasingly popular.  Harm reduction is defined by the Harm Reduction Coalition as a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing the negative consequences associated with drug use.  It is readily accepted in a lot of European countries; spearheaded by Portugal, the first country to decriminalize all drug use.  

Harm reduction in therapy means I build relationships regardless of a person’s status as “in addiction” or “in recovery.”  Too often, therapists disservice patients by judging them for continued symptoms and alienating them from life saving care.  Instead, we should focus on building and maintaining relationships so we can help reduce negative consequences and, hopefully, reduce or even completely stop the substance use.  At the end of the day, the goal is quality of life not a measurement of what, when, or if you use.   Plus, positive support will only help you be a healthier person which will naturally moderate any substance use.

Harm reduction is becoming increasingly popular.  If you are actively using and want someone to talk to about modifying or stopping your use, then find someone in your area who believes in this philosophy.  It could help accelerate the process of recovery and prevent more negative consequences for you in the future. 

Don't let your substance use spiral too far out of control, I can help!