Help Not Harm


what is help not harm

Help Not Harm is a non-partisan campaign led by young people and students who want to see the adoption of a Help Not Harm approach to drug use. 

Help Not Harm is a call to public institutions. We want help and support for people who use drugs, not harm that is a direct result of their stigmatisation and persecution.

The campaign was established by Stirling SSY members in February 2021, but now includes organisers from left-wing groups across the entire country.


We’ve seen that the Just Say No approach doesn’t work – drugs will still find a way into young people’s lives.

Public education about drugs takes an abstinence-only approach. This leaves young people without the knowledge or experience to use drugs in a way that’s likely to present the least harm.

Institutions, workplaces and the law seek to punish individuals who have a relationship with drugs. When this relationship is a problem, punishment serves only to make the lives of individuals more difficult. It is not a miracle cure for complex health issues.

The vast majority of people escape punishment, but this doesn’t mean no harm is done. In having drug penalties, institutions isolate those who develop a problem relationship with drugs, making them afraid (or unable) to reach out and access proper support.

Where the law is concerned, the War On Drugs has ensured that all illicit narcotics circulating in Scotland are unregulated in their production. A huge factor in drug deaths, from dodgy eccies to heroin, relate directly to the inconsistent purity of each street drug. The majority of drug deaths come from accidental poisoning, not intentional.

In the worst-case scenario, these combined factors lead young people to develop serious health problems or even to overdose on street-drugs.

Scotland could do better. We campaign for a help not harm approach to be applied at institutions, workplaces and in the law.

we want to see

Easy access to advice & guidance about drug-use for those who seek it, including helplines and signposting to relevant organisations

Harm reduction education in schools and local communities, offering an inclusive space for discussion led by experts whose knowledge extends beyond abstinence-only solutions

Regular counselling opportunities offered to those who ask for it within an appropriate span of time (in most cases no more than a week)

Drug-checking facilities at health clinics, community centres, universities, nightclubs, large events, and other relevant venues

Free overdose prevention training offered by the NHS, and promoted by all public institutions 

Opening of Overdose Prevention Clinics (OPCs) in Scottish towns and cities, guaranteeing access to safe consumption sites for all who require them

we want to end

Punishment for drug possession from public institutions, workplaces, and in the eyes of the law

Stigmatisation of drug-users as less deserving of care and support when accessing healthcare.

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