Assembling the dominant accounts of youth drug use in Australian harm reduction drug education Academic Article uri icon


  • Education programs are a central element of Australian harm reduction drug policy. Considered less judgmental and more effective than the punitive policies of Australia's past, harm reduction drug education is premised on the goal of reducing 'risks' and harms associated with illicit drug use rather than an elimination of use per se. In this article I analyse two sets of key texts designed to reduce drug related harm in Australia: harm reduction teaching resources designed for classroom use and social marketing campaigns that are targeted to a more general audience. I identify two significant accounts of young people's drug use present in Australian harm reduction drug education: 'damaged mental health' and 'distress'. I then draw on some of Deleuze and Guattari's key concepts to consider the harm reducing potential these accounts may have for young people's drug using experiences. To demonstrate the potential limitations of current drug education, I refer to an established body of work examining young people's experiences of chroming. From here, I argue that the accounts of 'damaged mental health' and 'distress' may work to limit the capacity of young drug users to practice safer drug use. In sum, current Australian harm reduction drug education and social marketing may be producing rather than reducing drug related harm.

publication date

  • 2014