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From a long career in alcohol and drug treatment services, this author has first-hand experience in the practice of harm reduction and the consequences of applying it – which are not always positive. 

This author suggests ways of bringing greater clarity to the whole arena.

The abandonment of abstinence as a goal in UK treatment practice is scrutinised with the conclusion that it could best be described as ‘harm continuation’.

The interaction between national treatment bodies and ‘Whitehall’ (the UK government) and the enforced reconciliation of treatment needs and political interests is appraised and found wanting.

Some hope is seen in scientific and pharmacotherapeutic current advances, whilst at the same time recognising the ongoing effectiveness of 12-step fellowships (albeit difficult to scientifically measure) and its ready correlation with the Stages of Change model.


This author is of the opinion that what is ‘passed off’ as harm reduction in the UK is, in reality, a process that facilitates the continued use of toxic, psychoactive drugs.

Whether or not that is the intention is open to speculation.

What is indisputable is the fact that it is simply not working insofar as the rehabilitation and recovery of addicts and alcoholics are concerned – an outcome which includes relinquishing criminal activities, living in a safe and stable environment, and, in the fullness of time through gainful employment, becoming a self supporting member of society.

Further, the architects of this disaster persist in hiding their failure by the time consuming and expensive process of producing sanitised statistics (which do not in anyway aid recovery but do enable politicians to claim success in achieving meaningless targets), meaning that the scourge of addiction currently damaging our society is likely to escalate.

Open access; Is It Harm Reduction-or Harm Continuation? (2007) The Journal of Global Drug Policy and Practice, VOLUME 1, ISSUE 2, Peter O’Loughlin; Principal, The Eden Lodge Practice, Beckenham, UK.

Blogger’s comment; The same can be said for the Australian approach.

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Related Reading:

Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions
If You Loved Me, You'd Stop! What You Really Need to Know When Your Loved One Drinks Too Much
Alcoholics Anonymous: The Big Book, 4th Edition
12 Steps: The Sequel