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Drug use and harm reduction: public health aspects

In this video, Annette Verster from WHO provides a global overview drug use and harm reduction and focusses on a public health dimension.

Now that we better understand what harm reduction stands for, how big is the problem it is trying to tackle? In the video above, Annette Verster will talk about the scale of drug use and the related health impact, as well as looking at some of the global UN recommendations on evidence based policies.

We will look into the burden of disease related to legal and illegal substances, and the different ways of using drugs. This session further illustrates the global scale of drug use and associated public health issues.

As you have heard in the first topic of this week “what is harm reduction”, we will hear about some of the core components of a comprehensive harm reduction package, as recommended by the UN agencies.

As you have heard from Dr. Magdalena Harris in the previous Step, the health consequences of drug use are often associated with contextual factors, and not just because of the drugs themselves. This is further reflected in some of the recommendations from the WHO to review country laws and legislations and to work towards decriminalization of use and possession for personal use.

We will look further into the notion of decriminalisation in week 3 of this course.


You will find several reports attached with more details on the public health notion of drug use. We highly recommend to have a look at the “consolidated guidelines on HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care of key populations” from the WHO. This is a very rich document and in the executive summary you will find a useful summary of the recommendations.

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Drug Use and Harm Reduction

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