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Home » The Harm Reduction Model of Drug Addiction Treatment: Mark Tyndall (Transcript)

The Harm Reduction Model of Drug Addiction Treatment: Mark Tyndall (Transcript)

Here is the full transcript of Mark Tyndall’s talk titled “The Harm Reduction Model of Drug Addiction Treatment” at TEDMED 2017 conference.

Public health expert Mark Tyndall’s talk, “The Harm Reduction Model of Drug Addiction Treatment,” emphasizes the critical need for a compassionate approach to addressing drug addiction, contrasting traditional punitive methods. He shares powerful firsthand experiences from Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, highlighting the stark realities of drug users and the positive impacts of harm reduction strategies such as supervised injection sites, needle exchanges, and access to methadone.

Tyndall argues that harm reduction not only saves lives but also serves as a bridge to treatment and recovery, challenging the misconception that it encourages drug use. Through the success stories of initiatives like INSITE, North America’s first government-sanctioned supervised injection site, he demonstrates how these approaches significantly reduce the harms associated with drug use, including the transmission of HIV and overdose deaths.

Despite facing opposition, Tyndall’s message underscores the importance of evidence-based policies that prioritize health and human dignity over criminalization. He calls for a broader acceptance of harm reduction, advocating for it as a crucial first step in addressing the complex issue of drug addiction. His talk is a compelling call to action for society to adopt more humane and effective ways to help those struggling with addiction.

Listen to the audio version here:


I remember the first time that I saw people injecting drugs. I had just arrived in Vancouver to lead a research project in HIV prevention in the infamous Downtown Eastside. It was in the lobby of the Portland Hotel, a supportive housing project that gave rooms to the most marginalized people in the city, the so-called “difficult to house.”

I’ll never forget the young woman standing on the stairs repeatedly jabbing herself with a needle, and screaming, “I can’t find a vein,” as blood splattered on the wall. In response to the desperate state of affairs, the drug use, the poverty, the violence, the soaring rates of HIV, Vancouver declared a public health emergency in 1997. This opened the door to expanding harm reduction services, distributing more needles, increasing access to methadone, and, finally, opening a supervised injection site. Things that make injecting drugs less hazardous.

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