The Canadian Nurses Association released a discussion paper last week entitled Harm Reduction and Currently Illegal Drugs: Implications for Nursing Policy, Practice, Education and Research.

The paper focuses on harm reduction strategies aimed at reducing health and social harms associated with illegal drug use. It presents current perspectives and evidence on harm reduction policy and practice, and identifies implications for nursing policy, practice, research and education.

The release of the paper coincides with the most recent discussions about Insite, a supervised injection facility in Vancouver. (Check out this morning’s news for some background: Safe injection advocates await top court ruling, CBC News, May 16, 2011). As the paper says: “There are two dominant policy approaches to reducing the harms of illegal drugs: (1) an approach that uses prohibition and law enforcement to criminalize drug possession and use, and (2) a public health approach that seeks to increase safer use of illegal drugs to reduce harms to health and well-being.” (p.3) There is substantial empirical evidence to support the public health and safety benefits of harm reduction strategies;  yet, health care providers may find themselves caught between these two approaches in their care for patients.

The Canadian Nurses Association is a federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing 143,843 registered nurses.

See the press release here.