The 11 Rules of Harm Reduction (S4E1)

In substance use disorder, one area that often takes a back seat in the ongoing effort to influence public health is harm reduction.  Although medicine is constantly trying to put out fires, substance use disorder, or SUD for short, is an example of where this approach fails miserably.  However, don’t take my word for it, simply look at the statistics and you’ll see that this conventional approach seems to be getting both more expensive due to all of the interventions required, but also due to the difficulty of the overabundance of those substances that we all use.  There is no shortage of things to use either.  Some of that list includes: sedatives (like opiates and barbiturates), stimulants (like coffee, cocaine and amphetamines), foods (like sugary junk foods) and activities (like sex or gambling). 

In addition, too much energy is given to pharmacotherapy, and not enough to all the other modalities that are effective in SUDs treatment.  First and foremost, we need a rule book to follow when it comes to any substance.  In that vein, here are 11 rules that harm reduction espouses to that effect.


  1. Control your environment. There are 2 aspects to this. The first is that will power is ineffective. As such, keep your environment free of excess amounts of the substance you choose to use. If there is too much around you, there will be more potential to use it all. The second aspect is that you should make sure that the environment you are in is a comfortable one with people you are sure of to provide help if required.


  1. Know what you have. It doesn’t matter if it is alcohol or heroin. Where did it come from, and what is its purity? If you don’t know this, accidents can be fatal.


  1. Start low, go slow. Whenever trying something for the first time, make sure you start at the lowest dose to see what it will do to you.


  1. Obey age restrictions. If you are under the age of 21, you have a developing brain. The expression “neurons that fire together, wire together”, gives you a clue regarding the reshaping of those connections when substances are used too early. Therefore, wait till at least 19 years of age before trying anything.


  1. Why are you using something? Moderate recreation is fine. Self medication in response to a trauma is where problems begin.


  1. Be a connoisseur. If you are going to use something recreationally, use the most expensive/ best you can find. The reason? You can’t afford too much, which will limit your consumption.


  1. Ritualize your usage. Basically, only with friends, only after 5pm or on weekends, etcetera. When the ritual breaks down, you are probably using to much and too frequently.


  1. Minimally processed is best. The more pure a thing is, the more potent it also is, hence beer and wine would be better than scotch.


  1. Correct your biochemistry. Every substance of use will leech vitamins and minerals from you. For example, alcohol steals all B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C and the amino acid glutamine from you. If you replace these things, you keep your brain and body functioning optimally. For more on this there is an app to help called the OrthoHOD app, which helps you to find out deficiencies in brain chemistry. Details are on my website.


  1. Don’t mix substances. When you mix, you create too much complexity and the overall effects of what you do are much less predictable, and more difficult to fix.


  1. Abstain from everything during pregnancy. That’s just common sense as the developing fetus is vulnerable to all substances out there (and yes I include sugar as well).


Bear in mind that I am neither condemning nor condoning use of any kind. I’m just sharing the rules of smart use that help you avoid addiction.  The choice is yours.


Be Well and Be Zen



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Gabor Mate., (2008)., In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts- Close Encounters With Addiction. p. 214., Vintage Canada, a division of Random House Canada LTD., ISBN 978-0-676-97741-7.

Meyer, J S, Quenzer, L F, (2013), Psychopharmacology: Drugs, the Brain, and Behavior, 2nd Ed., p. 268., Sinauer Associates, Inc., ISBN: 978-0-87893-510-9.

Joan Mathews Larsen, PhD., Alcoholism – The Biochemical Connection: A Breakthrough Seven-Week Self Treatment Program., pg. 31., 1992., Fawcett Columbine Books, New York., ISBN 0-449-90896-8.

Judith Grisel, 2019., Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction., p. 90-91., Doubleday, New York., ISBN: 978-0-385-54284-5.

Charles Grant, MD, PhD, Greg Lewis PhD., End Your Addiction Now: The Proven Nutritional Suppliment Program That Can Set You Free., pg. 226, 2002., Warner Books Inc., New York., ISBN 0-446-52723-8


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