The Psychology of Harm Reduction

Comparing Alternative Strategies for Modifying High-Risk Behaviors

by Robert J. MacCoun

Purchase Print Copy

 FormatList Price
Add to Cart Paperback23 pages Free

American drug policy focuses on "prevalence reduction," which aims to reduce or eliminate psychoactive drug use. A movement called "harm reduction" emerged during the 1980s as a strategy for dealing with harms unmitigated by traditional approaches. Harm reduction focuses on minimizing the adverse consequences of drug use through interventions such as needle exchange, "safe use" education, and the use of treatment as an alternative to incarceration.

Originally published in: The 1996 Wellness Lectures, 1996, pp. 5-27.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Reprint series. The Reprint was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1992 to 2011 that represented previously published journal articles, book chapters, and reports with the permission of the publisher. RAND reprints were formally reviewed in accordance with the publisher's editorial policy and compliant with RAND's rigorous quality assurance standards for quality and objectivity. For select current RAND journal articles, see External Publications.

Our mission to help improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis is enabled through our core values of quality and objectivity and our unwavering commitment to the highest level of integrity and ethical behavior. To help ensure our research and analysis are rigorous, objective, and nonpartisan, we subject our research publications to a robust and exacting quality-assurance process; avoid both the appearance and reality of financial and other conflicts of interest through staff training, project screening, and a policy of mandatory disclosure; and pursue transparency in our research engagements through our commitment to the open publication of our research findings and recommendations, disclosure of the source of funding of published research, and policies to ensure intellectual independence. For more information, visit

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.