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Harm reduction

‘If you use drugs, make sure you do it as safely as possible’, is Mainline’s motto.

Mainline is a strong advocate of harm reduction. This pragmatic approach does not put any moral pressure on substance users. Our main goal is to improve the health and living conditions of substance users. Based on this philosophy, Mainline supports different activities that are the most effective when they are developed in cohesion.

Basic principles of harm reduction strategy

Harm reduction is based on the principle that every user has the ability to intervene in their own use. And every user has the ability to unlock, strengthen and develop this potential. All interventions that are part of the harm reduction strategy are in line with the user’s needs and means.

This basic principle should be closely followed in every area of health care – prevention, treatment, care, and rehabilitation.


The basic principles are:
  • preventing HIV,
  • hepatitis C and overdoses,
  • offering guidance and support for infections,
  • intravenous use and co-morbidity, and
  • preventing high-risk behaviour and unsafe sex.

Ability to cope

It is not only the individuals themselves who benefit from harm reduction, but society as a whole also gains from this strategy. The method is not just limited to fighting infectious diseases. And while preventive measures such as needle exchange and supplying condoms remain necessary, these measures alone are insufficient.
A lot more effort is needed to actually improve the health of drug users, and to limit any damage to society.

Harm reduction aims at preventing overdoses, teaching self-control to users with excessive substance abuse habits, and to improve the self-image that many users have.

Empowerment is a key concept: if you believe in yourself, you are less likely to seek refuge through substance use. By giving substance users the mental ability to cope, this enables them to also find a life outside of the drug scene. If a person’s affairs are in order, they are more capable of focussing on other things than just scoring drugs.

Political lobby

It is a scientifically proven fact that harm reduction is (cost) effective. It is not without reason that, even though it may be a politically sensitive issue, this approach is gaining more and more support at higher levels.


However, this still requires intensive international lobbying. It is a commonly known fact that drug use is not accepted everywhere in the world. And it is precisely this social acceptance that is such a vital condition for harm reduction to be successfully implemented.


Harm reduction according to:
  • Mainline
  • AFEW (Aids Foundation East & West)
  • Bridging the Gaps and
  • INPUD (International Network of People Using Drugs)


These four organisations drew up a document with 10 points which we consider important in our (harm reduction) work. Read our document

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