The following principles are central to harm reduction practice:
- Accepts, for better and or worse, that licit and illicit drug use is part of our world and chooses to work to minimize its harmful effects rather than simply ignore or condemn them.
- Understands drug use as a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon that encompasses a continuum of behaviors from severe abuse to total abstinence, and acknowledges that some ways of using drugs are clearly safer than others.
- Establishes quality of individual and community life and well-being–not necessarily cessation of all drug use–as the criteria for successful interventions and policies.
- Calls for the non-judgmental, non-coercive provision of services and resources to people who use drugs and the communities in which they live in order to assist them in reducing attendant harm.
- Ensures that drug users and those with a history of drug use routinely have a real voice in the creation of programs and policies designed to serve them.
- Affirms drugs users themselves as the primary agents of reducing the harms of their drug use, and seeks to empower users to share information and support each other in strategies which meet their actual conditions of use.
- Recognizes that the realities of poverty, class, racism, social isolation, past trauma, sex-based discrimination and other social inequalities affect both people’s vulnerability to and capacity for effectively dealing with drug-related harm.
- Does not attempt to minimize or ignore the real and tragic harm and danger associated with licit and illicit drug use.
Source: Harm Reduction Coalition
North Carolina Law
Syringe exchange is legal in NC as of July 2016 (2016's HB972).
According to G.S. 90-113.27, no employee, volunteer or participant of the syringe exchange can be charged with possession of syringes or other injection supplies, or with residual amounts of controlled substances in them, obtained from or returned to a syringe exchange. Syringe exchange programs will supply a card, letter, or other documentation to each participant stating that they obtained their syringes from the exchange.
NC has passed multiple overdose prevention laws that have included 911 Good Samaritan law and naloxone access components, including 2013's SB20, 2015's SB154 and 2017's HB243.