Harm Reduction Approaches to Reduce Overdose Deaths


The Research Need

Harm reduction approaches connect people who use drugs with the services and resources they want and need, including protection against overdoses and infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis C, and associated health problems. It is a major focus toward saving lives in the evolving opioid crisis. In 2021, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy prioritized harm reduction as one of the pillars of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Overdose Prevention Strategy. Research is needed toward identifying ways to enhance access to harm reduction services as well as to measure their effectiveness.

About the Program

This program will establish a national network of research projects that aim to study and improve the effectiveness, implementation, and impact of existing and new harm reduction policies and practices. Research supported by this program will be conducted in real-world settings and in collaboration with a diverse range of stakeholders, who will help to ensure that the strategies being studied are sustainable and scalable. A single coordinating center will support the research projects by streamlining communication across the network, providing support related to data methodology, engaging community stakeholders about all network activities, and translating research findings so they can be used by researchers, practitioners, and communities.

Research Examples

Research examples supported by this program include:

  • Developing and testing novel harm reduction approaches in both urban and rural settings.
  • Evaluating novel settings for delivering harm reduction services and approaches that do not require face-to-face interactions.
  • Exploring and addressing individual and system-level barriers to accessing effective, scalable, and sustainable harm reduction services.
  • Examining strategies for reaching vulnerable, understudied, and hard-to-reach populations who need harm reduction services.
  • Assessing the effectiveness of harm reduction strategies for individuals who use methamphetamine and other stimulants.

Closed Funding Opportunities

HEAL Initiative: Harm Reduction Policies, Practices, and Modes of Delivery for Persons with Substance Use Disorders (R01 Clinical Trial Optional)
Dec 29, 2021
HEAL Initiative: Harm Reduction Policies, Practices, and Modes of Delivery for Persons with Substance Use Disorders: Coordination Center (R24 Clinical Trial Optional)
Dec 29, 2021

Participating NIH Institutes, Centers, and Offices


Julia Zur, Ph.D.,