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Harm Reduction vs. Abstinence in Drug Addiction Treatment

Resurgence Behavioral Health Harm Reduction vs Abstinence in Drug Addiction Treatment

What Is Harm Reduction in Drug Addiction?

Harm reduction is an overarching term for the various practices and programs available to help reduce the adverse effects of drug and alcohol use on a population. The main idea is to keep as many people as safe as possible, even if they use drugs or alcohol. It is not there to promote drug abstinence or glorify drug use. Advocates for harm reduction believe that it is more realistic to acknowledge that people will use drugs whether we want them to or not. There will always be people out there who will refuse addiction treatment even if they genuinely need help, and they deserve to be safe.

There are many schools of thought on the best methods, programs, and techniques for drug addiction treatment. Everybody is different, and some strategies will work better for some than others. For some, the ultimate goal is not abstinence. Harm reduction programs may be just the thing that keeps a person safe, so they can live to see another day.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

Benefits of Harm Reduction Programs

Harm reduction programs offer numerous benefits to people struggling with addiction from the most dangerous drugs. They can be beneficial for:

Heroin and Opioids

  • Needle exchange programs, also known as syringe service programs, prevent needle sharing by providing accessible, sterile needles and syringes and safely disposing of the used paraphernalia. This reduces the risk of contracting infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis, and other blood-borne pathogens.
  • Opioid treatment programs, also known as medication-assisted treatment (MAT) programs, provide integrated treatment like therapy, dual diagnosis for mental illness, and counseling, along with prescription medications that will help users overcome their opioid addictions. Methadone clinics fall under this umbrella, as does the use of buprenorphine, naltrexone, and naloxone. MAT can reduce relapse rates and increase survival rates in its patients.
  • Safe injection sites, where people can use heroin under medical supervision to prevent overdose and the contraction of infectious diseases. This is not a place to buy drugs, nor do workers inject users, and they are simply there to ensure serious issues are treated properly when they occur.
  • Drug testing sites or kits available to the public tell the user exactly what type of drug they are about to use. This is especially useful for preventing fentanyl overdoses, as it is a drug that is commonly mixed into other pills and powders without the buyer knowing.


  • Managed alcohol programs are harm reduction programs for unhoused people addicted to alcohol. They provide regular small doses of alcohol to reduce withdrawal symptoms without getting drunk. Housing and treatment are generally included in these programs, reducing the chances of relapse and the patients needing emergency or hospital services or interacting with police.
  • Naltrexone is a medication that can be provided to people addicted to alcohol, reducing the pleasurable effects alcohol can provide, leaving only the adverse effects of drinking. This can reduce cravings and effectively change patients’ motivations and behavior, helping people reduce their intake.
  • Alcohol ‘moderation’ programs help people showing signs of developing a substance use disorder by teaching people to change risky behavior and take personal responsibility. It helps people be honest with themselves and learn to balance all aspects of life, including drinking every once in a while, without going overboard. HAMS (Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support) is a peer support group that will help each member meet their own goals regarding either cutting down or quitting drinking.
  • Designated driver programs are programs in which a person is hired to get people home safely after a night of drinking. They either do a “team lift,” in which two people come, and one drives your car home with you in the passenger seat while the other follows behind, or they do a “scooter” approach in which a person brings a foldable scooter into your car, drives you home and then leaves on the scooter. This will prevent impaired driving, a hazardous activity many people under the influence, unfortunately, do regularly.

Stimulants like meth and crack

  • Safe injection sites with free, sterile injection equipment and accurate information about how to use the drugs exist to help reduce the risk of infectious disease and the spread of misinformation.
  • Education and information about hygiene (especially dental), nutrition, and safe sex are provided to reduce preventable issues like tooth decay, malnutrition, and STIs.
  • Education is provided about communicable diseases via sharing straws, pipes, and needles, and preventing overdose by knowing where your drugs come from, drug testing sites, and deciding how much to use beforehand.
  • Treatment and rehab referrals are provided and information on how these treatments will help.
  • Medications like antipsychotics and benzodiazepines may be provided to people experiencing temporary mental health issues due to stimulant abuse. These issues may include paranoia, psychosis, and hallucinations.

Ecstasy (MDMA, Molly)

  • Programs like RollSafe and DanceSafe provide information about MDMA, tips for safe use, and information about the drug’s ingredients, doses, and side effects.
  • Test kits can be used to check the purity of Ecstasy, reducing the risk of overdose or other serious health problems caused by additives.
  • Non-drug-related items like earplugs, water, and prophylactics are provided to keep MDMA users safe in all aspects of rave culture and the electronic music scene.


  • Harm reduction programs for marijuana use focus on safe use and health, providing information on mental health issues, addiction, impaired driving, respiratory problems, and cognitive issues that the drug can cause, primarily if used frequently or at an early age.
  • Information is provided about how marijuana use during pregnancy can negatively affect the baby’s health.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

What Are Abstinence-Based Addiction Treatment Programs?

Abstinence-based addiction treatment programs are dedicated to helping those addicted to drugs or alcohol detox, rehabilitate, and regain control over their lives without using substances. Once your time in rehab is complete, you can join alumni programs and move into sober living homes if you need a sober-friendly, supportive place to live to maintain your recovery. For further support in abstinence after rehab, you can turn to programs like:

  • Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART) Recovery Groups
  • 12-Step Programs
  • Women for Sobriety (WFS)
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

Benefits of Abstinence Based Recovery Programs

Abstinence from drugs and alcohol is when you entirely stop using any addictive substance or engaging in any addictive behaviors. It is the best way to allow your body to heal and ensure your addiction level does not become dangerous or life-threatening. Over time, substance abuse can cause irreparable damage to your body and mind and destroy your spirit.

Suppose you believe you have a substance use disorder. In that case, abstinence-based addiction treatment can help you stop using drugs effectively for the long term, especially when combined with therapy and counseling. You will be able to get to the underlying issues causing you to turn to substance abuse in the first place, which may break the cycle of addiction for good.

At Resurgence Behavioral Health, we have abstinence-based addiction treatments. We offer a medically assisted treatment (MAT) program for detoxing. Depending on the drug you are detoxing from, we may include the use of FDA-approved prescription medications to help you handle the withdrawal symptoms. Dual diagnosis treatment, therapy, and counseling are also introduced during detox to ensure all aspects of your physical and mental health are taken care of as your body removes the toxins from your system.

After detox, it is recommended to move directly into one of our inpatient or outpatient programs. These programs are customized to each patient’s needs and combine various therapies, educational programs, groups, life skills programs, and other treatments to form a holistic continuum of care. We will help you get to the root of your addiction, treat your physical symptoms, and teach you new healthy coping mechanisms. Some of the therapies offered include:

  • Medical Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy (REBT)
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Trauma-Informed Therapy
  • Family Therapy

There are recreational activities, offsite outings, and vocational training. Pets are allowed at Resurgence, and you can smoke in designated areas. In inpatient treatment, you will move into our facility for 30 to 90 days, living amongst like-minded peers in our welcoming environment, away from the usual people, places, and situations, so that you can focus on healing and rehabilitation.

In outpatient care, you will live outside the facility but commute for therapy, groups, and appointments with psychiatrists and medical doctors. There are different levels of care in outpatient rehab, ranging from the full-time Partial Hospitalization Program to the flexible Intensive Outpatient Program that can be scheduled around your work or school calendar.

No matter what drug you have an addiction to, quitting altogether is the best way to heal your body and mind, get well and take back control over your life. Contact Resurgence at (855) 458-0050 today to learn more about drug and alcohol abstinence and what our programs can do to help you.

Addiction Treatment that
Just Works

Individualized treatment programs delivered in a comfortable, relaxed setting promote healing in your recovery journey.

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At Resurgence, we accept most PPO insurance. Verify your insurance now.