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July 2022

Harm reduction and social policy: Should addicts be paid?

Author(s): Maccoun, R. J.

Journal/Book: Drug Alcohol Rev. 1996; 15: PO Box 25, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, England OX14 3UE. Carfax Publ Co. 225-230.

Abstract: Harm reduction principles have not been applied to social policy programs that affect drug users. This paper considers whether income supports for the drug-dependent poor might be harm reducing, given that a principal harm related to drug dependence is crime committed to finance drug use. We examine the political fate of the principal income support program in the United States that targeted the drug dependent. Revelations that the money was being used in part for the purchase of drugs has led to a scaling back and tightening of the program. We suggest that the program might have been more effectively defended if attention had been paid to community harms rather than only to drug consumption by recipients. European and Australian governments provide income support which is no doubt also used for drug consumption, but in the context of universalist income support programs they do not require a harm reduction defense. We conclude that great potential for reducing drug-related harm may fall well outside the domain of targeted drug policy, whether of the supply reduction, demand reduction or harm reduction variety.

Note: Article P Reuter, Univ Maryland, Sch Publ Affairs, College Pk, MD 20742 USA

Keyword(s): drug dependence; drug policy; harm reduction; DISABILITY

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