Abstract. Background: Harm reduction is an integral component of Australia’s overall national drug policy. Harm reduction policy and interventions can be applied to any legal or illegal drug to mitigate harm without necessarily reducing use, but harm reduction is traditionally conceptualised in relation to injecting drug use. Early and comprehensive adoption of many innovative harm reduction interventions has meant that Australia has had significant success in reducing a number of drug related harms, avoided disease epidemics experienced in other countries, and established programs and practices that are of international renown. However, these gains were not easily established, nor necessarily permanent. Aim: In this paper we explore the past and present harm reduction policy and practice contexts that normalised and facilitated harm reduction as a public health response, as well as those converse contexts currently creating opposition to additional or expanded interventions. Importantly, this paper discusses the intersection between various interventions, such as needle and syringe distribution and drug treatment programs. Finally, we detail some of the practical lessons that have been learned via the Australian experience, with the hope that these lessons will assist to inform and improve international harm reduction implementation.
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