From Prohibition to Harm Reduction

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In American communities, drug and substance misuse has been a serious problem. Different strategies have been devised to stop the spread, addiction, and damage brought on by the use of these medicines. In this essay, I'll examine two strategies: alcohol prohibition, alcohol availability regulation, and harm reduction. In order to assess and contrast the methods, I will pay close attention to how well they can be used to manage and control the issues related to alcohol use. To begin with, Harm reduction entails all the measures that are designed to minimize or reduce the damage or adverse effects related to the use of drugs. It encourages safe use of drugs as compared to prohibiting their use. This approach does not focus on reducing the use of drugs but rather to reduce the harmful consequences that arise as a result of using the drugs. The propellers of this approach appreciate the fact that drugs and substance abuse is part and parcel of the community; they thus believe in working individually with the victims to reduce the harmful effects. The detrimental effects include the spread of dangerous diseases and infections such as HIV/AIDS due to sharing of syringes and needles. On the other hand, the prohibition approach focuses on regulating the availability of alcohol. It entails applying measures that will control the number of times people get in contact with alcohol by limiting the number of times people get access to alcohol. In a nutshell, this approach operates on the idea of prevention is better than cure (Marlatt & Donovan, (Eds.), 2005). Both methods have employed various measures and strategies upon which they base their workability and references.

Whereas the harm reduction approach focuses on working directly with the drug addicts, the approach on prohibiting the people from use alcohol focuses on regulating the availability of alcohol this operates with the dealers and the general public in a generalized manner but not victims. The first approach aims at working closely at an individual level in a bid to meet the needs of the individual at a personal level to address the effects of the drug use that they may be exposed to. This gives room for a heart to heart talk with the victim which exposes them to the dangers that may arise as a result of using the drugs (Mayo-Smith, 1997). Education is given to the victims on the adverse hazards that are associated with the use of drugs; these dangers arise from sharing of needles and syringes, and the even overdose of the drugs, provision of this kind of knowledge enlightens them on the need for responsibility to reduce the adverse harms related to drug use. The second approach does not deal directly with the victims but rather with the agents and dealers of alcohol stores, various rules and regulations have been enacted to regulate the amount of alcohol consumed (O'connor & Schottenfeld, 1998).

The harm reduction approach is more curative whereas the regulatory approach is preventive. The regulating approach tends to reduce the physical access to alcohol as well as limiting the number of hours that alcohol is sold. On the other hand, rules and regulations are governing the consumption of alcohol; rules that control the monopoly of production and distribution of alcohol. The age limit is also a major consideration with the average age being 18 years. Therefore this approach aims to prevent the people from irresponsible drinking and subsequently reducing the chances and risks of the side effects of the frequent use. This method ignores the impact of the drinking habits whereas the harm reduction majorly focuses on rescuing the addicts from aftermath effects associated with drug and substance abuse (O'connor, & Schottenfeld, 1998).

The harm reduction approach does not operate under a universal harm reduction program but rather operate on principals of humanism, and they recognize that the use of drugs has been a major issue in the society and willingly work with the victims personally towards realistic and attainable goals (Hunt, Abraham, Chin, Feldman, Francis, Ganiats & Oates, 2009). The program is customized to the needs of the victim without any force. On the contrary, the regulating approach has rules and regulations that govern the use of the drugs, and it applies universally to every citizen. These rules have also been borrowed by different countries and are applicable; for example, the age limit of individual’s alcohol consumption in most countries is 18years.

In both approaches, the end goal is clear and realistic. Both have the aim of managing the consumption and adverse effects of the use of drugs and whichever approach that has been used, and it is geared towards ensuring that the situation is under control

In summary, the harm reduction approach operates under policies that reduce the adverse effects of the drug and substance abuse. This approach does not aim at reducing the consumption of alcohol but rather to manage the side effects that arise as a result of the continued drug use. These policies include responsible use of needles and syringes, through educating the users on the dos and don’ts during their use, it will reduce the spread of infections and diseases from person to person; this is very safe and cost-effective. On the other hand, the use of opioid substitutes like methadone reduces the high criminal activities that the victims commit; the HIV spread has also been minimized. It is also correct to deduce that this approach encourages drug consumption and addiction. This is the fact that it does not discourage the victims to stop their drinking habits but rather provides (Galanter, Kleber & Brady, (Eds.), 2014). . There should be a provision in the affected education that gives room for advice on how to quit the habit and live a healthy life. Regulating the availability of alcohol sets the preventive measures such as increasing the taxes on liquors. This makes it hard for most people to buy these drugs. On the same note, the younger people will not get access to these drugs hence managing the situation. It is also interesting to note that despite these efforts, there is no clear track record to show that young people are abstaining from the use of drugs. This is rather forceful as most people try to go against the rules and regulations hence leading to addiction. Regulating the availability of the drugs is purely an abstinence measure whereas the harm reduction reduces the adverse effects of the addiction (Braga, Weisburd, Waring, Mazerolle, Spelman & Gajewski, 1999).

In conclusion, there is need to integrate the two approaches such that there will be the encouragement of abstinence from drug use by educating the general public on the effects of the diverse use of narcotics. On the same note, provision of knowledge and education on those victims of addiction should be implemented at different levels. In this way, there will be a balance hence easy management. I, therefore, propose a universal approach which is; regulate the availability and reduce the harm approach to drug and substance abuse management. This method will effectively and efficiently reduce the problems associated with alcoholic problems.


Braga, A. A., Weisburd, D. L., Waring, E. J., Mazerolle, L. G., Spelman, W., & Gajewski, F. (1999). Problem‐oriented policing in violent crime places: A randomized controlled experiment. Criminology, 37(3), 541-580.

Hunt, S. A., Abraham, W. T., Chin, M. H., Feldman, A. M., Francis, G. S., Ganiats, T. G., ... & Oates, J. A. (2009). 2009 focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2005 guidelines for the diagnosis and management of heart failure in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines developed in collaboration with the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 53(15), e1-e90.

Marlatt, G. A., & Donovan, D. M. (Eds.). (2005). Relapse prevention: Maintenance strategies in the treatment of addictive behaviors. Guilford Press.

Mayo-Smith, M. F. (1997). Pharmacological management of alcohol withdrawal: a meta-analysis and evidence-based practice guideline. Jama, 278(2), 144-151.

O'connor, P. G., & Schottenfeld, R. S. (1998). Patients with alcohol problems. New England Journal of Medicine, 338(9), 592-602.

Galanter, M., Kleber, H. D., & Brady, K. (Eds.). (2014). The American Psychiatric Publishing textbook of substance abuse treatment. American Psychiatric Pub.

March 23, 2023

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