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Harm reduction
Harm reduction programmes have started to play an increasingly important role in addressing high risk groups, including the hidden ones.

Harm reduction features needle and syringe exchange programmes, party workers programmes and substitution treatment programmes. The definition covers night shelters and other facilities which do not have the abstinence criterion. The Information Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction works on harm reduction data collection systems. Data from the treatment system are collected according to the Treatment Demand Protocol - TDI. Obtaining harm reduction data according to TDI standards poses a lot of limitations due to the client profile of low threshold programmes. The clients often do not want to register because it means losing anonymity. Generally, harm reduction programmes should target individuals who do not enter abstinence-based rehabilitation. This type of assistance requires working out completely new methods of data collection compared to the way of getting data from the treatment system. Considering the dynamic development of low threshold programmes in Europe, especially in Eastern Europe in recent years, obtaining reliable and credible information in this respect has become an important element of the whole system of collecting data on drugs and drug addiction Europe.

Ways of data collection can be divided into two categories:

  • routine data, e.g. collected annually through surveys, mainly based on an organization’s records. Most often they include basic information: number of programmes and facilities, quantity of needles and syringes exchanged, number of contacts and clients,
  • research data, which are reported to complement the routine data. In this case the following information is collected: socio-demographic details of programme clients, type and pattern of use, HIV status, etc.


Every year meetings are held to develop harm reduction monitoring systems. Data from needle and syringe programmes are also collected. Moreover, in 2008 a national survey of harm reduction programmes and their clients was conducted (Survey report avaliable in Polish with English summary). The follow-up took place in 2010 and 2012. More information available in National Reports (chapter "Problem/high risk drug use").


“Harm reduction: evidence, impact, challenges” is the 10th publication of the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction in the Monographs series. This comprehensive publication is aimed to synthetically present harm reduction activities across Europe. It is worth stressing that, apart from drug-related harm reduction, it covers alcohol and tobacco-related issues.

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