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Harm Reduction

In all areas of practice, nurses frequently care for people who are using illegal substances and/or dealing with the negative consequences of drug use. Harm reduction is a public health approach aimed at reducing the adverse health, social and economic consequences of such at-risk activities.

How CNA supports a harm reduction approach

Harm reduction and currently illegal drugs: Implications for nursing policy, practice, education and research, a discussion paper prepared by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), presents evidence on harm reduction strategies and how such an approach benefits public health and safety. CNA has also developed a complementary resource, entitled Focus on Harm Reduction for Injection Drug Use in Canadian Prisons: A supplement to CNA’s Harm Reduction Discussion Paper [PDF, 216.3 KB].

The CNA-Canadian Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (CANAC) joint position statement on harm reduction highlights safety promotion, the prevention of death and disability, and the importance of treating all individuals with respect and dignity in a non-judgmental manner, regardless of drug use or engagement in other at-risk practices.

As intervenors in the 2011 Insite Supreme Court of Canada case, CNA joined the Association of Registered Nurses of British Columbia and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario to support nurses working with persons who have drug addictions in Vancouver’s downtown east side. The unanimous ruling in favour of Insite acknowledged the supervised injection site’s positive impact, both on the population it serves and on the surrounding community.

CNA took a strong stance [PDF, 97.7 KB] in opposing the federal government’s proposed amendment to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, known as the respect for communities act (Bill C-65). The bill had set out revised application criteria for opening and maintaining supervised injection sites. CNA submitted a brief for Parliament [PDF, 687.7 KB] outlining the positive impacts supervised injection sites can have by enabling people to inject pre-obtained drugs with the help of RNs. CNA’s brief helped show how harm reduction can promote safety as well as prevent death and disability. CNA’s commitment to this cause rang true when Bill C-65 failed to become law.

Nurses and harm reduction