Harm Reduction for Psychoactive Substance Use

Policy, Harm Reduction Services

Alberta Health Services is committed to providing a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans. This commitment includes a harm reduction approach that places priority on treating patients and their families with respect and dignity without judgement, stigma, or discrimination. AHS’ revision of the Harm Reduction for Psychoactive Substance Use Policy is just one component in a larger initiative to address the opioid crisis.

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Harm reduction means those policies, programs, and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social or economic consequences of the use of psychoactive substances without necessarily reducing consumption. Psychoactive substances are legal or illegal substance that affect mental processes, which includes controlled drugs such as alcohol, tobacco, and prescription medications.  Harm reduction is supported by evidence-based benefits and can be targeted at the individual, the family, community or society.

The Harm Reduction for Psychoactive Substance Use Policy reinforces the importance of promoting holistic care that recognizes the unique health and social needs of populations vulnerable to poor health outcomes. All programs and services across the continuum of care will offer culturally safe harm reduction approaches that respect the ability of patients to make informed decisions.  Abstinence or a reduction in substance use is not required to receive equitable and compassionate health care services.

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For more information on the implementation of this policy, or if you have any questions or concerns, email