Drug Use and Harm Reduction

Unpack the harm reduction approach, its connection to public health and human rights, and how it works at addressing drug use.

Overview - Drug use and harm reduction MOOC

Explore harm reduction

Over the past decades, drug use is increasingly recognised through a public health and human rights perspective. The evidence-based harm reduction approach is based on years of global experiences and evaluated by extensive research. This three-week course provides great insight into why it is such an effective solution.

See how human rights and public health relate to harm reduction

Public health measures focus on improving the overall health of a population, changing regulations, and increasing government support.

You’ll learn how harm reduction is a vital part of this approach, using an effective intervention model that saves lives, as well as protecting dignity, individual agency and other human rights.

Understand the importance of support instead of punishment

At its core, the harm reduction approach is based on empowering people to better protect themselves from potential risks associated with drug use.

It acknowledges the role of people who use drugs as a vital component of a public health response and promotes the idea that government and community support decrease potential risk factors.

On this course, you’ll see real best-practice examples and explore how you can advocate scaling up harm reduction to make a real impact on individual and public health issues, as well as protecting the human rights of people who use drugs.

Study harm reduction at a recognised leader in global and public health

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is strongly connected to the peer-reviewed International Journal of Drug Policy, with much of the research in this field coming from the LSHTM, while also being a world-renowned leader in global and public health.

You can trust their expert guidance as you learn more about using harm reduction to address drug use.


  • Week 1 - Harm Reduction and public health

  • Week 2 - Human Rights and Community

  • Week 3 - Scaling Up Harm Reduction

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain the core values, principles and evidence-base of the harm reduction approach

  • Describe the public health dimension of drug use on a global perspective and evaluate the evidence on what causes poor health outcomes and what is known about how to prevent them

  • Identify the core risk factors in relation to drug use from a social, physical and policy perspective 

  • Reflect on elevating risk factors associated with drug use

  • Discuss the meaning of agency, empowerment and the role of the community of people who use drugs taking up a leading role in drug policy health provision, prevention and policy reforms.

  • Interpret the human rights perspective within the public health debate of drug use.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the role and policy foundations of advocacy for scaling up Harm Reduction globally

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for anyone interested in harm reduction but it will be particularly beneficial if you are already working in this field. Government officials involved in formulating drug policies, such as those in internal affairs and health, will also find it very beneficial.

Other LSHTM courses

LSHTM offers a range of courses from doctoral programmes to online and intensive master's degrees and short courses: