There’s Too Little Research on Harm Reduction and Youth. Help Us Put That Right.

    There exists a lack of published academic research with and for young people who use drugs, including research focused on harm reduction. This is despite a majority of the global population of people who use illicit drugs being adolescents and young people—according to the latest (2018) statistics provided by the UN World Drug report—and the fact that they are disproportionately impacted by a range of drug- and drug policy-related harms. Sub-optimal services for young people exacerbate this. Youth-specific harm reduction programs, general service providers, policymakers and peers would all benefit from more perspectives and data from youth who use drugs.

    To help address this shortfall, the Harm Reduction Journal—a peer-reviewed publication established in 2004 and affiliated with Harm Reduction International, the National Harm Reduction Coalition and the Eurasian Harm Reduction Association—is partnering with Youth RISE and Filter for a special series: “Young People, Drugs and Harm Reduction.” We are now seeking research submissions with a view to publishing this work throughout the coming year. We will also be holding a number of events with authors to discuss their research and findings with the wider community.

    The initiative, partially funded by the Robert Carr Fund, aims to center the voices of young people who use drugs and include them in the scientific process. It aims to address evidence gaps by providing an academic forum to highlight the diverse voices of young drug users in research, service delivery and policy formation. It also seeks to identify how certain barriers currently prevent the publication of such research.

    The result will be a stronger, more equitable and diverse evidence base in the area of harm reduction and youth.

    The series will be guided by a commitment to open science. All work will be published on an open access platform, as is the policy of the Harm Reduction Journal. Where open access fees may stand in the way of participation, means of supporting authors will be identified and actioned where possible. Authors of accepted papers will additionally be invited to write Filter articles based on their research, to increase accessibility and promote rapid diffusion of information.

    Whether you are a traditional researcher with academic credentials, someone working or advocating in the field, or someone with lived experience, we encourage you to submit a paper. All submissions should consider the intersections of age, gender, sexual orientation, class, race, ability and/or geography that shape young people’s experiences of, and engagements with, drug use and harm reduction. We welcome non-traditional views and approaches to harm reduction, and are actively seeking submissions from young people who use drugs and from researchers in lower- and middle-income countries.

    The series will feature research with practical benefits for young people who use drugs of all kinds—legal, including alcohol and nicotine for example, and illegal—and those who provide services to them. We are asking for articles that consider best and promising practices in particular contexts, and that identify future areas for action, advocacy and research.

    Please consider submitting your work on “Young People, Drugs and Harm Reduction” to this special series, and spread the word amongst your colleagues and partner organizations to do the same. The submission platform can be accessed here; please read the submission guidelines first. Please ensure the correct collection series title is chosen from the “additional information” tab, and also indicate in the covering letter that the manuscript is to be considered for the “Young People, Drugs and Harm Reduction” thematic series. For more information, please feel free to contact the editors of the Harm Reduction Journal.

    Submissions close on September 21, 2021.



    The author is one of the guest editors for the “Young People, Drugs and Harm Reduction” series. Dr. Alissa Greer, Dr. Danya Fast and Angela McBride, who are also involved in the project as guest editors, co-authored this article.

    Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

    • Florian is a research assistant at the School of Health Sciences, Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), a project manager with Youth RISE, and a EURO Board Member of the Network of Early Career Professionals in Addiction (NECPAM). He is currrently undertaking a PhD at WIT, looking at online sexualized drug use and performative pornography. He lives in Ireland.

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