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[Contents][Appendix 1]
[Reference 115][Reference 117]

E is for Ecstasy by Nicholas Saunders

Appendix 1: Reference Section

116 High Time for Harm Reduction, by Russell Newcombe, Druglink, Jan. 1987

Newcombe says that it is too late to apply 'primary prevention' - education to prevent people taking drugs - to the present generation of drug users. In general terms, primary prevention has failed. However, it has been shown that education can slow the development of the more problematic forms of drug use, while leading to an increase in safer forms of drug use. This suggests that it would be prudent to divert some resources towards 'secondary prevention' or 'harm reduction' - preventing overdosing, accidents and infections which result from ignorance.

Policy makers should be giving serious consideration to the question: "Would it be preferable to reduce the incidence of illicit drug use while not promoting safer forms of drug use, or would it be more realistic to give greater priority to the reduction of harm from drug use?" According to Newcombe, the four main components of a harm reduction strategy should be: (1) rationale, (2) content, (3) implementation and (4) evaluation.

1. It should be acknowledged that people like to get high, and that this is not likely to change. Drug use may be rational, not deviant, Newcombe says. It should be acknowledged that many psychoactive drugs are no more harmful than prescribed drugs. "The message that drugs are unhealthy is akin to warning soldiers in battle that chewing gum can cause indigestion," he says. Harm reduction policies are based on a caring rather than a judgemental approach, and are therefore less likely to drive drug users underground.

2. The strategy must be based on knowledge. The focus should be on controlling use rather than seeking complete abstinence, which is out of character with modern life. Instructions should be given on suitable quantities, effects, safest methods of administration, obtaining help when needed, avoiding hazards and methods of controlling mental states.

3. The implementation strategy should draw on knowledge of how to maximise the probability of success. Drug use tends to follow on from heavy smoking and drinking, so smokers and pub goers are a suitable target, although there may be a risk of arousing an interest in drug use, and there may be objections from parents.

4. It will be necessary to do 'before and after studies' and long-term follow-ups using control groups to evaluate the effectiveness of harm reduction strategies.

[Contents][Appendix 1]
[Reference 115][Reference 117]
E is for Ecstasy by Nicholas Saunders (
HTMLized by Lamont Granquist (