Harm Reduction Organizations

The Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC)

The Harm Reduction Coalition is the primary representative of active drug users and their issues in the United States and has many active users as members. It was one of the driving forces in creating needle exchange programs around the country which it continues to support. Needle exchanges are excellent places to get support from other users. Some communities also have needle exchange sites for youth. HRC is more up-to-date than most organizations about the risks and benefits of drugs. They have a lot of printed educational materials, very inexpensive and very understandable, about many of the drugs people use and about safe injection techniques. HRC’s every-other-year conferences are a great place to get educated and to meet other users (and ex- or non-users), professionals, street outreach workers, and family members of users, who can become a support network.

 Harm Reduction Coalition (HRC)

22 West 27th Street, 5th Floor

New York, NY 10001



[email protected]

In California

1440 Broadway, Suite 510

Oakland, CA 94612


[email protected]


Drug Policy Alliance (DPA)

A new name for two classic drug policy organizations: The Lindesmith Center and the Drug Policy Foundation. DPA sponsors important legislation to counter the effects of the War on Drugs, fights for the rights of people incarcerated under current drug policies, and maintains an excellent library of scholarly and practical resources about drug policy and public health harm reduction interventions.

 Drug Policy Alliance

70 West 36th Street, 16th Floor

New York, NY 10018



[email protected]

131-10th Street | San Francisco, CA 94103

Voice: 415.241.9800 |Fax: 415.901.4018 

[email protected]


The Chicago Recovery Alliance (CRA)

CRA offers a great deal of support to drug users in the Chicago area, with very educated needle exchange and street outreach workers who represent many using communities, including youth and gay and transgendered people. CRA is hoping to open a youth-oriented drop-in center in Chicago. Its director, Dan Bigg, is one of the leading experts on substance use management in the United States.

 Chicago Recovery Alliance (CRA)

Dan Bigg

3110 West Taylor Street

Chicago, IL 60612

Information line: 773-471-0999 Voice line: 312-953-3797


[email protected]


Insite – Supervised Injection Site

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

“Since opening its doors in 2003, Insite has been a safe, health-focused place where people inject drugs and connect to health care services – from primary care to treat disease and infection, to addiction counselling and treatment.  Insite is North America’s first legal supervised injection site. The British Columbia Ministry of Health Services provides operational funding for Insite through Vancouver Coastal Health, which operates the facility. Insite operates on a harm-reduction model, which is a policy or program directed towards decreasing the adverse health, social and economic consequences of drug use without requiring abstinence from drug use.”



North American Syringe Exchange Network (NASEN)

“NASEN is dedicated to the creation, expansion and continued existence of syringe exchange programs as a proven method of stopping the transmission of blood-borne pathogens in the injecting drug using community.”



International Harm Reduction Association

The best source for information about world drug policy and activities. This organization holds an annual conference that brings people together from the fields of public health, public policy, medicine, social work, as well as indigenous groups in the host countries to forward the agenda of harm reduction.



Harm Reduction Hawaii

HRH is a coalition of individuals and agencies working toward the implementation of effective and respectful services to improve the health and well-being of drug users and other marginalized people in Hawaii.






There are many drug user unions throughout the world but only three in the U.S. at the time of writing.  The purpose of these organizations run by and for drug users is, generally, to give drug users a voice in influencing policies that affect their lives.  Drug users unions are akin to patient advocacy groups such as Act Up (HIV/AIDS) and Breast Cancer Action.

San Francisco Drug Users Union

 “We, the San Francisco Drug Users’ Union, unite under a broad agenda based on the social, legal, health, and policy issues confronting drug users daily in San Francisco.   We, as drug users, former drug users and people who care about drug users, reject the victimization of people who use drugs and join in the spirit of other Drug Users’ Unions nationally and internationally.   After too many years of a failed “Drug War,” it is obvious to us that we need a new direction, and that the first step in setting that new direction is to include the voices of drug users!  

 “We, the San Francisco Drug Users’ Union, have the following broad goals: to decriminalize drugs and drug use; to create a safe environment where people can use & enjoy drugs as well as receive services;  to promote a positive image of drug users  to engender respect within our community and from outside our community;  to work towards access to better quality and safer drugs;  to ensure fair treatment by the law, by service providers, and by healthcare workers; and to advocate for more harm reduction-based services including counseling and overdose  prevention.  While we work towards these goals, we will also incorporate new issues that are of concern to San Francisco’s drug using community.”

 San Francisco Drug Users Union

149 Turk Street

San Francisco, CA  94102




Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU)

“The Vancouver Area Network of Drugs Users (VANDU) is a group of users and former users who work to improve the lives of people who use illicit drugs through user-based peer support and education. VANDU believes that grassroots democratic organizing among people who use illicit drugs at the local, region and national level can serve as the building blocks for a social movement that has the strength, determination and staying power to fundamentally change drug policy.”  VANDU was instrumental in opening Insite, Vancouver’s supervised injection site.


VOCAL New York

“Voices Of Community Activists & Leaders (VOCAL) is a statewide grassroots membership organization building power among low-income people who are living with and affected by HIV/AIDS, drug use and incarceration, along with the organizations that serve us, to create healthy and just communities. We accomplish this through community organizing, leadership development, participatory research, public education and direct action.

 “As people directly affected by HIV/AIDS, the war on drugs and incarceration, we have often been invisible or demonized when decisions are made about our lives, even though they are among the most urgent crises facing our communities. Intense stigma surrounds these issues because they disproportionately affect people of color and LGBT people, and are rooted in severe racial, gender and economic inequalities. At the same time, these issues are misunderstood to be the result of individual failings instead of collective failures by our economy and society to ensure adequate housing, healthcare, economic security and other basic human rights.

 “We believe in a democratic and inclusive movement for social justice that lifts up everyone.  VOCAL is part of successive waves of organizing movements that have enlarged the circle of those who are active in the fight for social justice and win change that transforms our lives and the broader communities we live in.  Through our work we overcome stereotypes that we cannot organize effectively because of who we are, and challenge misperceptions that we remain outside of our communities rather than vital members of them. Our life experience provides us with valuable knowledge to identify solutions to community problems, and it inspires motivation and creativity in our work for positive change.”




Moderation Management (MM)

The goal of participants in MM is moderate drinking. Only if moderation fails do people revisit their decision and consider abstinence. MM was developed for problem drinkers rather than for other drug users. There is no inherent reason why the principles could not be applied to other drug use. The maximum levels of drinking recommended were based on studies of people’s optimal success when trying to moderate, so users of other drugs would need to determine their own optimal levels for moderating their use. As we recommended in the chapter on Substance Use Management (which is really a drug user’s MM), the right levels of other drugs are dependent on the nature of the drug and the physical and mental health and circumstances of each user. MM groups are process oriented and incorporate a good deal of education. MM is approved by the state of California for DUI sentencing. Groups can be very diverse, including those with problematic early-stage drinking and those in advanced stages of alcoholism. Although participants are generally not interested in abstinence, guidelines set out by the World Health Organization for safe drinking are offered. The philosophy of MM is not to be alone with the experience of drinking and to be accountable to peers who share similar goals regarding alcohol use. Groups meet in person in some communities. There are also online groups. All information about meetings can be found on their website. In New York, they share office space with the Harm Reduction Coalition.


Moderation Management Network, Inc.

c/o HRC

22 West 27th Street, 5th Floor

New York, NY 10001



[email protected]


Harm Reduction, Abstinence, Moderation Support (HAMS)

The HAMS Network provides on line and in person peer support for people wanting to change their drinking. Developed by Ken Anderson, it offers well-researched methods for assessing your risks, your goals, and your strengths. It offers a 17 point method for either moderation or abstinence.


The HAMS Harm Reduction Network, Inc.

P. O. Box 498

Prince Street Station

New York, NY 10012

Tel: 347-678-5671

[email protected]





Women for Sobriety (WFS)

The philosophy of WFS is to support women in achieving and maintaining abstinence from alcohol. Introductions are first name only but do not include the “I’m an alcoholic” tag. The groups are abstinence-based, and the focus is more future- than past-oriented. Groups are small—about six women. Moderators are women who have achieved at least one year of sobriety, know about the WFS program and philosophy, may have read some literature about addiction, but have no formal training.


Women for Sobriety, Inc.

PO Box 618

Quakertown, PA 18951-0618



[email protected]


Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS)

SOS has three basic characteristics: it is secular (nonreligious), abstinence is the goal, and self-help is the way it works. Meetings generally open with a statement about SOS, but the structure varies from group to group. Any time away from alcohol is considered sober time. If a person is abstinent for a year then relapses, he or she is considered abstinent for a year with a relapse, unlike in AA, where your sober time is counted only since your last relapse.


SOS International Clearinghouse

The Center for Inquiry-West

4773 Hollywood Boulevard

Hollywood, CA 90027



[email protected]


LifeRing Secular Recovery

LifeRing is a self-help group based on a philosophy of secular (nonreligious) mutual support and discussion of all life issues, including work, relationships, the law, drugs, or anything else deemed important to members. It subscribes to the traditional abstinence model and views any use as relapse. Meetings are unstructured and informal. At a typical meeting a “convener” calls the group together and reads a statement about LifeRing, indicating there are no steps and no sponsors and that discussion is open and intended for mutual help. The convener is not a professional but rather a participant charged only with calling the group to order and reading this statement. Members of the group go around and introduce themselves on a first-name-only basis. Discussion is then open, and participants talk about how the week has gone. Others respond, and there is open and free discourse with the intention of providing mutual support. Meetings last about an hour.


LifeRing Service Center

1440 Broadway Suite 312

Oakland CA 94612-2023



[email protected]


SMART Recovery

The goal of SMART Recovery is to build skills to maintain abstinence. Introductions are informal, and meetings are led by “coordinators” who may or may not have had a drinking problem but have been sober at least a year and adhere to SMART principles. No formal training is required to be a moderator, but training sessions are offered and coordinators are encouraged to attend. Since SMART is recognized by the courts as an alternative to AA meetings, you might run into some folks who are required to be there and may be somewhat resistant to working on their drug or alcohol problems. Participants do not have sponsors. Confidentiality is strictly enforced—you could be removed from the program for talking about others in the group outside of the group meetings. SMART is for people who like a do-it-yourself approach with very little structure. Group membership shifts, and there is a good deal of turnover—people get what they need and then leave.


7537 Mentor Avenue, Suite #306

Mentor, Ohio 44060



[email protected]





Behavioral Self-Control Program for Windows

This is an interactive software program for alcohol moderation training that ­consists of eight computer-assisted sessions. It gives you individualized feedback and helps you assess your chances of succeeding at moderation, shows you how to set up rewards for yourself, deal with triggers, etc. (see www.unm.edu/~cosap/behavioral_self.htm).


Drinker’s Check-Up (also works with drugs)

Another interactive software program for assessment, feedback, and decision making about your alcohol use, as well as secondary information about drug use. (Download program from [email protected])

Reid Hester, PhD

Behavior Therapy Associates

9426 Indian School Road NE, Suite 1

Albuquerque, NM 87109