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Harm Reduction

Finding out about the different schools of thought concerning alcohol addiction can help you come to the right decision for yourself or your loved one regarding a specific alcohol rehab program. There are a wide range of theories relating to the reasons for alcohol use and the best method of treatment for people addicted to alcohols. Harm reduction is one theory which can be incorporated into alcohol rehab programs, and has a different focus than most treatment methods.

Treatment for alcohol addiction is typically focused on getting the person to stop taking alcohols altogether and adopt healthier methods of problem solving. However, most alcohol rehab programs have problems with relapse, and multiple rounds of treatment are often needed before the person achieves sobriety. Many theories place special attention on the negative impacts of alcohols, and demonise the substances in order to get alcohol addicts to stop using.

The cornerstone of the theory of harm reduction is that complete abstinence from alcohols is an unrealistic goal. Throughout history, humans have taken various substances to alter their consciousness and alleviate stresses associated with day to day life. Supporters of the theory point out that there has never been a alcohol-free society, and argue that there never will be. The modern “war on alcohols” has raged for decades, and has not eradicated the use of alcohols, despite prison sentences and other punishments being routinely doled out to offenders.

Harm reduction theory focuses on minimising the negative effects associated with alcohols and helping people achieve risk-free use. These risks are quantified in terms of social, economical and personal health, and can often be managed through a reduction in use. For example, a cocaine addict might spend a significant proportion of their income on the alcohol, and therefore be unable to support a healthy lifestyle. By taking cocaine less often, this effect is (at least partially) negated, and the person’s use won’t carry as many risks.

Counsellors using the harm reduction theory will help alcohol users moderate their usage, or even reduce it considerably, but it never force people into abstinence. They see the focus on abstinence as ineffective and a major cause for relapse. Harm reduction theory respects the individual’s right to choose whether or not they take alcohols, and as such can be considered a humanist theory. It doesn’t condemn alcohol use, but it doesn’t support it either. It says that if people choose to take alcohols, the only thing that can be done is to reduce the associated risks as much as possible.

As a result of the more relaxed attitude to alcohol treatment, harm reduction theory isn’t usually espoused by residential alcohol rehab facilities. Networks of centres provide things such as needle exchange programs (to reduce the risk of infections) and safe locations in which to inject heroin with medical staff on hand. Counsellors also focus on helping to reduce usage instead of pushing their clients towards abstinence.

If you are having difficulty choosing the most suitable alcohol rehab program for yourself or a loved one, please get in touch for some free advice. We have a thorough knowledge of the various alcohol rehab facilities and treatment centres around the country and can help you reach the right decision. We can also provide free information on the different approaches to alcohol addiction and help you determine which one is most suitable for your needs. Tackling addiction isn’t easy, and you shouldn’t attempt it without some additional help.


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