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Drug Use and Harm Reduction

Unpack the harm reduction approach, its connection to public health and human rights, and how it works at addressing drug use.

7,552 enrolled on this course

A harm reduction activist in Georgia. Image © Médecins du Monde / Olivier Papegnies
  • Duration

    3 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours
  • 100% online

    How it works
  • Digital upgrade


Explore harm reduction

Over the past decades, drug use is increasingly recognised through a public health and human rights perspective. The evidence-based harm reduction approach is based on years of global experiences and evaluated by extensive research. This three-week course provides great insight into why it is such an effective solution.

See how human rights and public health relate to harm reduction

Public health measures focus on improving the overall health of a population, changing regulations, and increasing government support.

You’ll learn how harm reduction is a vital part of this approach, using an effective intervention model that saves lives, as well as protecting dignity, individual agency and other human rights.

Understand the importance of support instead of punishment

At its core, the harm reduction approach is based on empowering people to better protect themselves from potential risks associated with drug use.

It acknowledges the role of people who use drugs as a vital component of a public health response and promotes the idea that government and community support decrease potential risk factors.

On this course, you’ll see real best-practice examples and explore how you can advocate scaling up harm reduction to make a real impact on individual and public health issues, as well as protecting the human rights of people who use drugs.

Study harm reduction at a recognised leader in global and public health

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is strongly connected to the peer-reviewed International Journal of Drug Policy, with much of the research in this field coming from the LSHTM, while also being a world-renowned leader in global and public health.

You can trust their expert guidance as you learn more about using harm reduction to address drug use.

What topics will you cover?

  • What is Harm Reduction?
  • The public health dimension of drug use and harm reduction
  • The human rights dimension of drug use and harm reduction
  • The community at the heart of the response
  • Advocacy around scaling up of harm reduction.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain the core values, principles and evidence-base of the harm reduction approach
  • Describe the public health dimension of drug use on a global perspective and evaluate the evidence on what causes poor health outcomes and what is known about how to prevent them
  • Identify the core risk factors in relation to drug use from a social, physical and policy perspective 
  • Reflect on elevating risk factors associated with drug use
  • Discuss the meaning of agency, empowerment and the role of the community of people who use drugs taking up a leading role in drug policy health provision, prevention and policy reforms
  • Interpret the human rights perspective within the public health debate of drug use
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role and policy foundations of advocacy for scaling up Harm Reduction globally

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in harm reduction but it will be particularly beneficial if you are already working in this field. Government officials involved in formulating drug policies, such as those in internal affairs and health, will also find it very beneficial.

What do people say about this course?

I am motivated and inspired to help harm reduction become mainstream

"I am so grateful for this course! Practicing addiction medicine in the US has been like trying to drive safely with my eyes closed. I am motivated and inspired to help harm reduction become mainstream"

Who will you learn with?

With a background as a nurse, Ernst has worked as a fieldworker and later as a manager in multiple Harm Reduction programs in several countries. Currently he is the Harm Reduction expert for NGO MdM

Professor Tim Rhodes leads programmes of social science research in the fields of health, drug use and harm reduction. He has been working in the UK, Russia, Kenya, Myanmar and Colombia.

Executive Director of International Network of People who Use Drugs

Who developed the course?

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is a world leader in research and postgraduate education in public and global health. Its mission is to improve health and health equity worldwide.

Médecins du Monde

Médecins du monde or Doctors of the World, provides emergency and long-term medical care to the world’s most vulnerable people. It also advocates to end health inequities. MdM is active in over 80 countries with approximately 400 programs active, in both the developed and developing world.

International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD)

The International Network of People who Use Drugs (INPUD) is a global peer-based organisation that seeks to promote the health and defend the rights of people who use drugs. INPUD exposes and challenges stigma, discrimination, and the criminalisation of people who use drugs. INPUD achieves this through empowerment and advocacy at an international level, while supporting empowerment and advocacy at community, national and regional levels.

What's included?

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine are offering everyone who joins this course a free digital upgrade, so that you can experience the full benefits of studying online for free. This means that you get:

  • Unlimited access to this course
  • Includes any articles, videos, peer reviews and quizzes
  • Tests to validate your learning
  • A PDF Certificate of Achievement to prove your success when you’re eligible
  • Learning on FutureLearn

    Your learning, your rules

    • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
    • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
    • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

    Join a global classroom

    • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
    • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
    • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

    Map your progress

    • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
    • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
    • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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