A review of the efficacy and effectiveness of harm reduction strategies for alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs

Alison Ritter*, Jacqui Cameron

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    177 Citations (Scopus)


    Harm reduction is both a policy approach and used to describe a specific set of interventions. These interventions aim to reduce the harms associated with drug use. Employing a strict definition of harm reduction, evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug harm reduction interventions were reviewed. Systematic searches of the published literature were undertaken. Studies were included if they provided evaluation data (pre-post, or control group comparisons). More than 650 articles were included in the review. The majority of the literature concerned illicit drugs. For alcohol, harm reduction interventions to reduce road trauma are well-founded in evidence. Otherwise, there is limited research to support the efficacy and effectiveness of other alcohol harm reduction interventions. For tobacco, the area is controversial but promising new products that reduce the harms associated with smoking are being developed. In the area of illicit drugs there is solid efficacy, effectiveness and economic data to support needle syringe programmes and outreach programmes. There is limited published evidence to date for other harm reduction interventions such as non-injecting routes of administration, brief interventions and emerging positive evidence for supervised injecting facilities. There is sufficient evidence to support the wide-spread adoption of harm reduction interventions and to use harm reduction as an overarching policy approach in relation to illicit drugs. The same cannot be concluded for alcohol or tobacco. Research at a broad policy level is required, especially in light of the failure by many policy makers to adopt cost-effective harm reduction interventions.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)611-624
    Number of pages14
    JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2006


    Dive into the research topics of 'A review of the efficacy and effectiveness of harm reduction strategies for alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this