HAMS: Harm Reduction for Alcohol

The Alcohol Harm Reduction Pyramid

Alcohol Harm Reduction Pyramid

benefits of alcohol

People engage in heavy drinking because they perceive a benefit from doing so. What harm reduction asks people to do is to weigh the benefits of heavy drinking against the risks and to find a reasonable compromise which they can live with.

The benefits of drinking include not just the euphoria and the taste--some of us love to view ourselves as party people and not party poopers. Some of us even get creative when we drink a bit, and an occasional escape from reality is not a bad thing. Constant need to escape from reality or constant need to bolster confidence with alcohol are not such good things. Harm reduction urges people to find better solutions to these problems than constant alcohol use.

HAMS believes that harm reduction is hierarchical--some risks are worse than others. HAMS believes that people should concentrate first an eliminating what is most risky. That is why we have categorized potential harms from alcohol in a pyramid.

If everyone could stay at Level One on the harm reduction pyramid there would be no alcohol problems or treatments for them. Harm reduction is pragmatic enough to expect that this situation is never likely to come to pass.

Most of us will probably agree that we wish to avoid Levels Three, Four and Five. Many of us will agree that a hangover is a reasonable price to pay for a night of fun partying. And many of us are unwilling to give up either pork chops or alcohol to maximize longevity.

High risk drinking is not limited to heavy daily drinking; even one incident of unprotected sex with a stranger can lead to STDs including AIDS. It can also lead to unwanted pregnancy. Even one incident of drunk driving can lead to death or prison should you kill someone else. Any unplanned drinking is high risk drinking. Harm reduction urges people to plan their drinking carefully so that they have safe transportation. Harm reduction urges people to always carry condoms and to be of a mind set to use them. Have the proper safety-conscious mind set before you begin drinking and it will carry through after you begin drinking.

Blackouts can be avoided by eating and being well hydrated before one begins drinking--and by slowing down ones rate of consumption. Drinking beer instead of shots is one way to slow consumption

Avoiding daily drinking is the way to avoid withdrawal symptoms. And be sure to take your vitamins and eat well to avoid health damage.

We have included other drug use in the pyramid because alcohol can tend to lower one's inhibitions about most things. One needs to be cautious when drinking that one does not slip into using a drug which one would normally avoid. Choosing safe settings to drink in and having the proper mind set before one begins drinking can help one avoid unwanted risks.

Do your cost benefit analysis carefully and decide for yourself which drinking benefits outweigh which risks.


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