There is a new game in town when it comes to dealing with alcohol problems. It is harm reduction, offering pragmatic and realistic strategies where traditional approaches to alcohol problems have failed. Spearheading this movement is a group called HAMS -- Harm Reduction, Alcohol Abstinence and Moderation Support. HAMS is a free-of-charge, lay-led support and informational group for people who drink alcohol.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism tells us that only 7% of people with an alcohol problem ever seek treatment. And clinical research shows that over two-thirds of those who enter 12-step treatment programs drop out. HAMS acknowledges that 12-step programs are a great resource for those people who've had success with them; and applauds anyone who manages to beat a drinking problem by going to AA. But why do so few people succeed with 12-step programs? Perhaps it is because 12-step programs require:
- Participants to identify themselves as "diseased" and "alcoholic;"
- Total abstinence from all addictive, mood altering drugs, except nicotine and caffeine;
- A confession of "powerlessness" and a reliance on a "Higher Power" (i. e., God) to cure one's "disease."
For a majority of people these demands are unpalatable, making the 12-step programs unapproachable.
By way of contrast, the HAMS alcohol harm reduction program:
- Meets people "where they are at" with their drinking;
- Does not label people or require them to identify themselves as "diseased" or "alcoholic;"
- Empowers people to choose their own goal -- safer drinking, reduced drinking or quitting;
- Engages people with realistic goals that they can actually accomplish.
Harm reduction programs have been applied to situations other than alcohol problems and owe much of their success to their approachability. Some highly successful harm reduction programs in America include:
- seatbelt use to reduce injuries from automobile accidents;
- making condoms widely available, resulting in safer sex and the reduction of STDs;
- the distribution of clean needles among intravenous drug users to stop the spread of HIV.
Isn't it time that there was a harm reduction approach to alcohol problems, too?
HAMS founder Kenneth Anderson says, "At HAMS we see people who have been failed by standard treatment approaches to alcohol whose lives have been shattered by drinking. These people turn their lives around completely after learning simple approachable harm reduction strategies. We also see people who have never suffered any major consequences from drinking who find the disease label unhelpful and unacceptable. These people come to HAMS and turn their drinking around before it ever harms them. It does not matter how much or how little you drink, the miracle of harm reduction can work for anyone who wants to change his or her drinking for the better."
If you or a loved one wants to make a change in your drinking behavior, please visit hamsnetwork.org.
"The life you save may be your own."
The HAMS Harm Reduction Network, Inc